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By this it appears, that, in a Seafon of Peril and great Tribulation, it is not enough, that we betake our selves to no unlawful means for Escape ; or that we do not rest entirely upon Human Helps ; no, nor yet that we come streight to God, and earnestly apply to Him for relief. All this the Disciples did, and yet they were guilty of Something so blameable, that, notwithstanding the imminent Hazard of all their Lives, our Lord, according to the account here, saw it reasonable to rebuke Them first, and then the Sea. Now it must needs be of great Importance, rightly to understand, wherein this particular Defect lay; that, as their Excellencies provoke our Imitation, so their Failings may be so many seasonable Preventions to us. And, from the several Hands compared together, who have delivered an Account of Ver. 26. this matter, it is beyond dispute, that their Fear was charged upon them, as an Argument of their wanting Faith.
But doth Faith require, that a Man become blind and insensible? Or was it reasonable to imagine, when the Winds roared, the Seas raged, the Vessel was sinking, Death pouring in upon them with every Wave, and their Master aseep; He, in whom alone any Hope could be left, to their thinking, deaf and unconcern'd all the while: Can it, I say, be conceived, that Men, in these distressed Circumstances, should feel no Terror, betray no Disorder? To reproach them for Passions so interwoven with, Weaknesses so inseparable from, our common Constitution and Frame, is, in effect, to reproach them for being Men. And, whatever wicked People may suggest, or ignorant People suppose, we may be very confident, that no Command in the Gospel, no Disposition or Duty expected from us, was ever designed to destroy, but all tend to exalt and perfect, Human Nature.
Mark iv. 40.
Luke viii. 24.
Fear, then, in general, could not be their fault, but, some Quality with which their Fear was then attended. In the discovering whereof, the two other Evangelists will assist us. St. Luke relates the Manner of
their Application to our Lord in these
words, Master, Master, we perish: St. Mark iv. 38.
Mark in these, Master, carest thou not that we peris? In agreement with them St. Matthew must be understood: and then, Lord save us, we perish, is an Exclamation full of Horror, Confusion, and Despair, in Men, that gave up all for lost and gone. And this, no doubt, was the Disciples Weakness, and want of Faith, that they suffered the sense of the present Danger to drive them to Despondency: They suspected either the Goodness, or the Power of Christ, to help in this Extremity; and feem’d to say, Either that their Safety was no part of his Concern, and he cared not if they were loft; Or else, that this was a Difficulty too mighty for him, notwithstanding those many former Miracles, which ought to have persuaded the contrary. And thus the Language of their fainting Hearts bore some resemblance to that Reproach at his Crucifixion, He saved others, himself he cannot save.
The Improvement then, which it behoves Us to make of this Example, is that of condemning, lamenting, and setting our selves resolutely to struggle with, those Dejections and Misgivings of Mind, which Calamities and Fears are apt to cast us into. We should fee and consider our Dangers and our Wants, but so, as to quicken our Zeal, and take Sanctuary in God, and still to believe him a sure Sanctuary, even when Human Helps prove broken Reeds to us. We niuft not then limit his Hand, or measure it by the weak Arm of Flesh, but rest assured, that his Power is always invincible, and his Wisdom and Mercy incomprehensible. We must seek him by Prayer, and qua
lify our felves for his Favour, by a holy Importunity, and a strong Faith. In short, this One, this most important Truth must be ever fixed upon our Minds ; That, let our Enemies be never so many, or never so mighty; our Adversities never so grievous, our Dangers never so formidable; still nothing can either bind the Hands, or bound the Love, of God. But he always can, and always will, deliver and do, as he knows to be most for the benefit of them that serve him faithfully. An eminent Instance whereof my
III. Third and Last Head gives us; The Deliverance, I mean, of the Disciples, related in these words, Then be a "fe and rebuked the Winds and the Sea, and there was
Calm. Upon which I shall very briefly make Two Remarks; One of the Tenderness and Compassion, Another of the Extent and Perfection, of the Asistance we may depend upon, from the Goodness of our God and only Saviour.
1. His Compassion, First, is observable, in condescending to the Requests of these Disciples, though not recommended by all the Perfection it ought to have had. The Philosophers heretofore, in their Distinctions of Fear, allowed a
Metus qui cao
dere potest in sort of it, which it was no Disparage- conftantem ment to a Man of Virtue and Courage 1, 1.
Cic. Oific. to be affected with. And our Blessed Lord, who made us, and who vouchsafed, in his owi Person, to feel the Infirmities of Flesh and Blood, does, upon all occasions, show himself tender and gentle to them, and willing to cherish the first Seeds and Beginnings of a Faith, yet feeble in us. This is evident in fact, that the Men, who, in their cooler Thoughts, have the justest Notions of God and his Providence, do nevertheless, in some Extremities, find their Understandings disturbed, their Thoug!i: confounded, and Reason and Religion for a whil: justled aside. In such Cases, it is our Duty to cheris
the Disorders, that we cannot absolutely prevent; to call up, as soon as may be, the Powers of Consideration and Faith, and lay fast hold on that Hope, which is deservedly styled the Anchor of tofs'd and tempestbeaten Souls. And, provided this be done, our Frailties and Surprises shall never be charged to our account. They will, on the contrary, not fail to move Pity, and shew us the Truth and Faithfulness of God, by opening the way to a glorious and happy Deliverance, from the Temptations we lie under.
2. And for this Hope my Second Remark furnishes Ground sufficient: For, our Saviour rebuked the Winds and the Seas, and even those deaf and merciless Elements heard and obeyed his Voice. The like effectual Change shall always follow, when God gives the Word; No Danger, no Opposition can stand before it. The fiercer and more dreadful these are, the more only they contribute to the rendring his Power sensible, and his Goodness signal, in that compleat Deliverance, that succeeding Calm, which at once will refresh us after, and reward us for, our past Fears and Troubles. So great reason hath every Christian to support himself with those words of the Holy Psal
mist, What though the Earth be moved, and the Hills carried into the midst of the
Sea : Though the waters thereof rage and swell, and the Mountains make at the Tempest of the same? God is in the midst of us, therefore Mall we not be removed; God Mall help us, and our Enemies shall melt away. The Lord is our Light, and our Salvation, whom then Mall we fear? The Lord is the strength of our Life, of what then should we be afraid?
To conclude in a word. This Gospel fets before us a lively Emblem of God's dealing with his Servants; and a plain Intimation, both what those Servants are to expect from Him, and what they are to do, to justify their Dependance upon him. Violent Sha
Pfal. xlvi. xxvii.
kings and strong Convulsions are incident to the Fortunes, not of Private Men only, but of Communities and Kingdoms. This is the Lot of the Best, of the Greatest, of the Church, of the whole World. God hath no where engaged to keep oX Affaults and Temptations. He thinks it encouragement enough, to sustain us under, to succour us in, and at his own due Time, to deliver us out of, our Dangers and Distresses. When therefore these attack us, either in our Personal, or our Publick Capacity ; our Business must be, To seek his Protection by earnest and constant Prayer ; and thus to silence all those wicked Distrusts, which frail Nature, the Prevalence of sensual Affections, and the Extremity of Amfictions, are too apt to betray us into: To remember, that though our Selves are weak, yet our Redeemer is mighty: That the stormy Wind, which cannot rise but at his word, shall, when he pleases to command, be immediately laid by it again: That He is disposed to look upon our Sufferings and Infirmities with a very tender Eye: and, provided we be not wanting to our Duty, he will accept that most pious and most necessary Prayer, which our Church, in allusion to the Passage now before us, hath taught us to put up this day.
Let us come therefore to the Throne of Grace, in an humble sense of being set in the midst of so many and great dangers, that by reason of the frailty of our Nature we cannot always stand upright: and may He grant us fuch strength and proteslion, as may support us in all dangers, and carry us through all templations, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.