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Wherefore, I say, he is set forth here under the title of Creator: nothing can die under a Creator’s hands

[THE GOOD EFFECT OF COMMITTING THE

SOUL TO GOD’S KEEPING.]

THIRD. I come now to speak to the third and last part of the text, namely, of the good effect that will certainly follow to those that, after a due manner, shall take the advice afore given. “Let them that suffer according to the will of God, commit the keeping of their souls to him in well-doing, as unto a faithful Creator.”

Two things from the last clause of the text lie yet before us. And they are they by which will be shown what good effect will follow to those that suffer according to the will of God, and that commit their souls to his keeping.

1. Such will find him to themselves ‘a Creator.’

2. They will find him ‘a faithful Creator.’ “Let them commit the keeping of their souls to him, as unto a faithful Creator.”

In this phrase, ‘a Faithful Creator,’ behold the wisdom of the Holy Ghost, how fitly and to the purpose he speaketh. King is a great title, and God is sometimes called a King; but he is not set forth by this title here, but by the title of a Creator; for it is not always in the power of a king to succour and relieve his subjects, that are suffering for his crown and dignity. Father is a sweet title-a title that carrieth in it an intimation of a great deal of bowels and compassion, and God is often set forth also by this title in the holy Scriptures. But so he is not here, but rather as a Creator. For a father, a compassionate father, cannot always help, succour, or relieve his children, though he knows they are under affliction! Oh! but a Creator can.

Wherefore, I say, he is set forth here under the title of Creator.

FIRST, A Creator! nothing can die under a Creator’s hands. A Creator can sustain all. A Creator can, as a Creator, do what he pleases. “The Lord, the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary” (Isa 40:28).

The cause of God, for which his people suffer, had been dead and buried a thou-sand years ago, had it not been in the hand of a Creator. The people that have stood by his cause had been out of both as to persons, name, and remembrance, had they not been in the hand of a Creator. Who could have hoped, when Israel was going in, even into the mouth of the Red Sea, that ever his cause, or that people, should have revived again. A huge host of the Egyptians were behind them, and nothing but death before and on every hand of them; but they lived, they flourished, they outlived their enemies, for they were in the hand of a Creator.

Who could have hoped that Israel should have returned again from the land, from the hand, and from under the tyranny of the king of Babylon? They could not deliver themselves from going thither, they could not preserve themselves from being diminished when they came there, their power was gone, they were in captivity, their distance from home was far, their enemies possessed their land, their city of defence was ruined, and their houses burned down to the ground; and yet they came home again: there is nothing impossible to a Creator.

Who could have thought that the three children could have lived in a fiery furnace? that Daniel could have been safe among the lions? that Jonah could have come home to his country, when he was in the whale’s belly? or that our Lord should have risen again from the dead? But what is impossible to a Creator?

This, therefore, is a rare consideration for those to let their hearts be acquainted with that suffer according to the will of God, and that have committed the keeping of their souls to him in well-doing. They have a Creator to maintain and uphold their cause, a Creator to oppose its opposers. And hence it is said, all that burden themselves with Jerusalem “shall be cut in pieces, though all the people of the earth be gathered together against it” (Zech 12:3).

John Bunyan- Seasonable Counsel or Advise to Sufferers

But if I be taken and suffer, my cause is like to be clothed with scandals, slanders, reproaches, and all manner of false, and evil speakings; what must I do?

And now for two or three objections:-

Object. 3. But if I be taken and suffer, my cause is like to be clothed with scandals, slanders, reproaches, and all manner of false, and evil speakings; what must I do?

Answ. Saul charged David with rebellion (1 Sam 22:8,13). Amos was charged with conspiring against the king (Amos 7:10). Daniel was charged with despising the king; and so also were the three children (Dan 6:13; 3:12). Jesus Christ himself was accused of perverting the nation, of forbidding to give tribute to Caesar, and of saying that himself was Christ a king (Luke 23:2). These things therefore have been. But,

(1.) Canst thou, after a due examination of thyself, say that as to these things thou art innocent and clear? I say, will thy conscience justify thee here? Hast thou made it thy business to give unto God the things that are God’s, and unto Caesar the things that are his, according as God has commanded? If so, matter not what men shall say, nor with what lies and reproaches they slander thee, but for these things count thyself happy. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you – and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely (lying) for my sake (saith Christ). Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you (Matt 5:11,12). Comfort thyself therefore in the innocency of thy soul, and say, I am counted a rebel, and yet am loyal; I am counted a deceiver, and yet am true (1 Sam 24:8-12, 2 Cor 6:8). Also refer thy cause to the day of judgment; for if thou canst rejoice at the thoughts that thou shalt be cleared of all slanders and evil speakings then, that will bear up thy heart as to what thou mayest suffer now. The answer of a good conscience will carry a man through hell to heaven. Count these slanders part of thy sufferings, and those for which God will give thee a reward, because thou art innocent, and for that they are laid upon thee for thy profession’s sake. But if thou be guilty, look to thyself; I am no comforter of such.

John Bunyan- Seasonable Counsel or Advise to Sufferers

But if I fly, some will blame me: what must I do now?

And now for two or three objections:-

Object. 2. But if I fly, some will blame me: what must I do now?

Answ. And so many others if thou standest; fly not, therefore, as was said afore, out of a slavish fear; stand not, of a bravado. Do what thou dost in the fear of God, guiding thyself by his Word and providence; and as for this or that man’s judgment, refer thy case to the judgment of God.

John Bunyan- Seasonable Counsel or Advise to Sufferers

May we not fly in a time of persecution?

And now for two or three objections:-

Object. 1. But may we not fly in a time of persecution? Your pressing upon us, that persecution is ordered and managed by God, makes us afraid to fly.

Answ. First, having regard to what was said afore about a call to suffer; thou mayest do in this even as it is in thy heart. If it is in thy heart to fly, fly: if it be in thy heart to stand, stand. Any thing but a denial of the truth. He that flies, has warrant to do so; he that stands, has warrant to do so. Yea, the same man may both fly and stand, as the call and working of God with his heart may be. Moses fled (Exo 2:15), Moses stood (Heb 11:27). David fled (1 Sam 19:12), David stood (24:8). Jeremiah fled (Jer 37:11,12), Jeremiah stood (38:17). Christ withdrew himself (Luke 9:10), Christ stood (John 18:1-8). Paul fled (2 Cor 11:33), Paul stood (Acts 20:22,23).

There are therefore few rules in this case. The man himself is best able to judge concerning his present strength, and what weight this or that argument has upon his heart to stand or fly. I should be loath to impose upon any man in these things; only, if thou fliest, take two or three cautions with thee:-

(1.) Do not fly out of a slavish fear, but rather because flying is an ordinance of God, opening a door for the escape of some, which door is opened by God’s providence, and the escape countenanced by God’s Word (Matt 10:23).

(2.) When thou art fled, do as much good as thou canst in all quarters where thou comest, for therefore the door was opened to thee, and thou bid to make thy escape (Acts 8:1-5).

(3.) Do not think thyself secure when thou art fled; it was providence that opened the door, and the Word that did bid thee escape: but whither, and wherefore, that thou knowest not yet. Uriah the prophet fled into Egypt, because there dwelt men that were to take him, that he might be brought again to Jerusalem to die there (Jer 26:21).

(4.) Shouldest thou fly from where thou art, and be taken in another place; the most that can be made of it-thy taking the opportunity to fly, as was propounded at first-can be but this, thou wast willing to commit thyself to God in the way of his providence, as other good men have done, and thy being now apprehended has made thy call clear to suffer here or there, the which before thou wert in the dark about.

(5.) If, therefore, when thou hast fled, thou art taken, be not offended at God or man: not at God, for thou art his servant, thy life and thy all are his; not at man, for he is but God’s rod, and is ordained, in this, to do thee good. Hast thou escaped? Laugh. Art thou taken? Laugh. I mean, be pleased which way soever things shall go, for that the scales are still in God’s hand.

(6.) But fly not, in flying, from religion; fly not, in flying, for the sake of a trade; fly not, in flying, that thou mayest have ease for the flesh: this is wicked, and will yield neither peace nor profit to thy soul; neither now, nor at death, nor at the day of judgment.

John Bunyan- Seasonable Counsel or Advise to Sufferers

Since the rod is God’s as well as the child, let us not look upon our troubles as if they came from, and were managed only by hell

From what has been thus discoursed, many things will follow; as,

3. Since the rod is God’s as well as the child, let us not look upon our troubles as if they came from, and were managed only by hell. It is true, a persecutor has a black mark upon him, but yet the Scriptures say that all the ways of the persecutor are God’s (Dan 5:23). Wherefore as we should, so again we should not, be afraid of men: we should be afraid of them, because they will hurt us; but we should not be afraid of them, as if they were let loose to do to us, and with us, what they will. God’s bridle is upon them, God’s hook is in their nose: yea, and God has determined the bounds of their rage, and if he lets them drive his church into the sea of troubles, it shall be but up to the neck, and so far it may go, and not be drowned (2 Kings 19:28; Isa 37:29; 8:7,8). I say the Lord has hold of them, and orders them; nor do they at any time come out against his people but by his licence and commission how far to go, and where to stop.

John Bunyan- Seasonable Counsel or Advise to Sufferers

Labour to be patient under this mighty hand of God

From what has been thus discoursed, many things will follow; as,

2. Labour to be patient under this mighty hand of God, and be not hasty to say, When will the rod be laid aside? mind thou thy duty, which is to let patience have its perfect work. And bear the indignation of the Lord, because thou hast sinned against him, until he please to awake, to arise, and to execute judgment for thee (Micah 7:9). But to pass this.

Are things thus ordered? then this should teach us that there is a cause.

The rod is not gathered without a cause; the rod is fore-determined, because the sin of God’s people is foreseen, and ofttimes the nature of the sin, and the anger of the Father, is seen in the fashion of the rod. The rod of my anger, saith God. A bitter and hasty nation must be brought against Jerusalem; an enemy fierce and cruel must be brought against the land of Israel. Their sins called for such a rod, for their iniquities were grievous (Hab 1:6).

This should teach us with all earnestness to be sorry for our sins, and to do what we can to prevent these things, by falling upon our face in a way of prayer before God. If we would shorten such days, when they come upon us, let us be lovers of righteousness, and get more of the righteousness of faith, and of compliance with the whole will of God into our hearts. Then I say, the days shall be shortened, or we fare as well, because the more harmless and innocent we are, and suffer, the greater will our wages, our reward, and glory be, when pay-day shall come; and what if we wait a little for that?

These things are sent to better God’s people, and to make them white, to refine them as silver, and to purge them as gold, and to cause that they that bear some fruit, may bring forth more: we are afflicted, that we may grow (John 15:2). It is also the will of God, that they that go to heaven should go thither hardly or with difficulty. The righteous shall scarcely be saved. That is, they shall, but yet with great difficulty, that it may be the sweeter.

Now that which makes the way to heaven so strait, so narrow, so hard, is the rod, the sword, the persecutor, that lies in the way, that marks where our haunt is, that mars our path, digs a pit, and that sets a net, a snare for us in the way (1 Sam 23:22; Job 30:12-14; Psa 9:15; 31:4; 35:7; 119:110; 140:5; 142:3).

This, I say, is that which puts us to it, but it is to try, as I said, our graces, and to make heaven the sweeter to us. To come frighted and hard pursued thither, will make the safety there the more with exceeding gladness to be embraced. And I say, get thy heart yet more possessed with the power of godliness; that the love of righteousness may be yet more with thee. For this blessedness, this happiness, he shall be sure of, that suffereth for righteousness’ sake.

John Bunyan- Seasonable Counsel or Advise to Sufferers

The rod, as well as the child, is God’s

From what has been thus discoursed, many things will follow; as,

1. That the rod, as well as the child, is God’s; persecutors, as well as the persecut-ed, are his, and he has his own designs upon both. He has raised them up, and he has ordered them for himself, and for that work that he has for them to do. Hence Habakkuk, speaking of the church’s enemies, saith, “Thou hast ordained them for judgment; and, O mighty God, thou hast established them for correction” (Hab 1:12). And, therefore, they are in other places called the rod of God’s anger; his staff (Isa 10:5), his hand; his sword (Psa 17:13,14).

Indeed, to be thus disposed of, is a sad lot; the lot is not fallen to them in pleasant places, they have not the goodly heritage; but the judgments of God are a great deep. The thing formed may not say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? To be appointed, to be ordained, to be established to be a persecutor, and a troubler of God’s church-O tremendous judgment! O amazing anger!

Three things the people of God should learn from hence.

(1.) Learn to pity and bewail the condition of the enemy; I know thou canst not alter the counsel of God; appointed they are, established they are for their work, and do it they must and shall. But yet it becomes them that see their state, and that their day is coming, to pity and bewail their condition, yea, and to pray for them too; for who knows whether it is determined that they should remain implacable to the end, as Herod; or whether they may through grace obtain repentance of their doings, with Saul. And I say again, if thy prayer should have a casting hand in the conversion of any of them, it would be sweet to thy thoughts when the scene is over.

(2.) Never grudge them their present advantages. “Fret not thyself because of evil men, neither be thou envious at the workers of iniquity” (Prov 24:19). Fret not, though they spoil thy resting-place. It is God that has bidden them do it, to try thy faith and patience thereby. Wish them no ill with what they get of thine; it is their wages for their work, and it will appear to them ere long that they have earned it dearly. Their time is to rejoice but as in a moment, in what thus is gotten by them; and then they, not repenting, are to perish for ever, like their own dung (Job 20:5-7). Poor man, thou that hast thy time to be afflicted by them, that thy golden graces may shine the more, thou art in the fire, and they blow the bellows. But wouldest thou change places with them? Wouldest thou sit upon their place of ease? Dost thou desire to be with them (Prov 24:1)? O rest thyself contented; in thy patience possess thy soul, and pity and bewail them in the condition in which they are.

(3.) Bless God that thy lot did fall on the other side, namely, to be one that should know the truth, profess it, suffer for it, and have grace to bear thee up thereunder, to God’s glory, and thy eternal comfort. This honour have not all his saints; all are not counted worthy thus to suffer shame for his name. Do this, I say, though they get all, and leave thee nothing but the shirt on thy back, the skin on thy bones, or an hole in the ground to be put in (Heb 11:23-26).

John Bunyan- Seasonable Counsel or Advise to Sufferers

GIANTS AND DWARFS

IT is needful, whenever any holy enterprise-is commenced, that it should be early watered by the helpful Spirit of God. Nothing beginneth well unless it beginneth in God. It cannot take root, it cannot spring up in hopefulness, except the Holy Spirit shall descend upon it; it will wither like the grass upon the housetops if the celestial dew of the morning fall not early upon it. The like grace is equally needful after years of growth; there is urgent need of the latter rain, the shower of revival, in which the old work shall be freshened, and the first verdure shall be restored; for without this latter rain, the period of harvest, which is the end aimed at, will be disappointing.

The same is true in connection with any sphere of labor in which any individual may happen to be engaged. I will trust that every believer has found something to do for him Lord and Master. In commencing any Christian work, novelty greatly assists enthusiasm, and it is very natural that under first impulses the beginner should achieve an easy success. The difficulty of the Christian is very seldom the commencement of the work; the true labor lies in the perseverance which alone can win the victory. Christians who have now been for years occupied with a service which the Holy Ghost laid upon them, I would remind of the early rain of their youthful labors, the moisture of which still lingereth on their memories, although it has been succeeded by long years of drought. Be encouraged; a latter rain is yet possible. Seek it. That ye need it so much is a cause for sorrow, but if you really feel your need of it, be glad that the Lord worketh in you such sacred desires. If you did not feel a need for more grace, it would be a reason for alarm; but to be conscious that all that God did by you in the past has not qualified you to do anything without Him now, to feel that you lean entirely upon His strength now as much as ever, is to be in a condition in which it shall be right and proper for God to bless you abundantly. Wait upon Him, then, for the latter rain; ask that if He has given you a little of blessing in past years, He would return and give you ten times as much now, even now; so that, at the last, if you have sown in tears, you may come again rejoicing, bringing your sheaves with you. Alas; the danger of every Christian worker is that of falling into routine and self-sufficiency. We are most apt to do what we have been accustomed to do, and to do it half asleep. One of the hardest tasks in all the world is to keep the Christian awake on the Enchanted Ground. The tendencies of this present time, and of all times, are soporific. The life, the power of our public services and private devotion speedily evaporates; we pray as in a dream, and praise and preach like somnambulists. May God be pleased to stir us up to awaken and quicken us, by sending us the latter rain to refresh his weary heritage.

We have in this age but few giants in grace who rise head and shoulders above the common height, men to lead us on in deeds of heroism and efforts of unstaggering faith. After all, the work of the Christian Church, though it must be done by all, often owes its being done to single individuals of remarkable grace. In this degenerate time we are very much as Israel was in the days of the Judges, for there are raised up among us leaders who judge Israel, and are the terror of her foes. Oh, if the Church had in her midst a race of heroes; if our missionary operations could be attended with the holy chivalry which marked the Church in the early days; if we could have back apostles and martyrs, or even such as Carey and Judson, what wonders would be wrought! We have fallen upon a race of dwarfs, and are content, to a great extent, to have it so.

There was once in London a club of small men, whose qualification for membership lay in their not exceeding five feet in height; these dwarfs held, or pretended to hold, the opinion that they were nearer the perfection of manhood than others, for they argued that primeval men had been far more gigantic than the present race, and consequently the way of progress was to grow less and less, and that the human race as it perfected itself would become as diminutive as themselves. Such a club of Christians might be established in London, and without any difficulty might attain to an enormously numerous membership; for the notion is common that our dwarfish Christianity is after all the standard, and many even imagine that nobler Christians are enthusiasts, fanatical, and hot-blooded; while we are cool because we are wise, and indifferent, because intelligent. We must get rid of all this nonsense. The fact is, the most of us are vastly inferior to the early Christians, who, as I take it, were persecuted because they were thoroughly Christians, and we are not persecuted because we hardly are Christians at all. They were so earnest in the propagation of the Redeemer’s kingdom, that they became the nuisance of the age in which they lived. They would not let errors alone. They had not conceived the opinion that they were to hold the truth, and leave other people to hold error without trying to intrude their opinions upon them, but they preached Christ Jesus right and left, and delivered their testimony against every sin.

They denounced the idols, and cried out against superstition, until the world, fearful of being turned upside down, demanded of them, “Is that what you mean? Then we will burn you, lock you up in prison, and exterminate you.” To which the Church replied, “We will accept the challenge, and will not depart from our resolve to conquer the world for Christ.” At last the fire in the Christian Church burned out the persecution of an ungodly world. But we are so gentle and quiet, we do not use strong language about other people’s opinions; but let men go to hell out of charity to them. We are not at all fanatical, and for all we do to disturb him, the old manslayer has a very comfortable time of it. We would not wish to save any sinner who does not particularly wish to be saved. We shall be pleased to say a word to them in a mild way, but we do not speak with tears streaming down our cheeks, groaning and agonizing with God for them; neither would we thrust our opinions upon them, though we know they are being lost for want of the knowledge of Christ crucified. May God send the latter rain to His Church, to me, and to you, and may we begin to bestir ourselves, and seek after the highest form of earnestness for the kingdom of King Jesus. May the days come in which we shall no longer have to complain that we sow much and reap little, but may we receive a hundredfold reward, through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Very feebly, but still with the most earnest intentions, I have endeavored to excite in you an ambition after a higher lifts, and the setting up of a higher standard. Seek to love your Master more; pray to be filled with His Spirit. Do not be mere tradespeople who are Christianized, but be Christians everywhere; not plated goods, but solid metal. Be ye servants of Jesus Christ, whether ye eat or drink, or whatsoever ye do. Serve Him with both your hands, and all your heart. Get your manhood strung to the utmost tension, and throw its whole force into your Redeemer’s service. Live while you live. Drivel not away your existence upon baser ends, but count the glory of Christ to be the only object worthy of your manhood’s strength, the spread of the truth the only pursuit worthy of your mental powers. Spend and be spent in your Master’s service.

Charles H. Spurgeon – Words of Counsel for Christian Workers, ‘Giants and Dwarfs’

It is appointed for how long this or that saint shall suffer this or that kind of affliction

It remaineth, then, that we be not much afraid of men, nor yet be foolishly bold; but that we wait upon our God in the way of righteousness, and the use of those means which his providence offereth to us for our safety; and that we conclude that our whole dispose, as to liberty or suffering, lieth in the will of God, and that we shall, or shall not suffer, even as it pleaseth him. For,

Seventh, As all these pass through the hand of God, and come not to us but by his will, so HOW as also LONG is really determined as any of them all. It is not in man, but God, to set the time how long the rod of the wicked shall rest upon the lot of the righteous. Abraham must be informed of this. “Abraham,” says God, “know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years” (Gen 15:13). So the thraldom of Israel in Babylon was not only in the general appointed, but the time prefixed, how long (Jer 25:11,12; 29:10). The time of the beast’s reign and of the witnesses walking in sackcloth are punctually fixed, and that beyond which they cannot go (Rev 11, 12, 13).

I know these are generals, and respect the church in the bulk of it, and not particular persons. But, as was hinted afore, we must argue from the greater to the lesser, that is, from four hundred years to ten days, from ten days to three, and so from the church in general to each particular member, and to the time and nature of their sufferings (Rev 2:10; Hosea 6:2; Acts 23:11).

John Bunyan- Seasonable Counsel or Advise to Sufferers

It is appointed by whose hand this or that saint shall suffer this or that kind of affliction

It remaineth, then, that we be not much afraid of men, nor yet be foolishly bold; but that we wait upon our God in the way of righteousness, and the use of those means which his providence offereth to us for our safety; and that we conclude that our whole dispose, as to liberty or suffering, lieth in the will of God, and that we shall, or shall not suffer, even as it pleaseth him. For,

Sixth, As it is appointed who, when, where, what kind, and for what truth, by the will of God, this and that saint should suffer; so also it is appointed BY WHOSE HAND this or that man shall suffer for this or that truth. It was appointed that Moses and Israel should suffer by the hand of Pharaoh. And for this very purpose, said God, have I raised thee up, that is, to be a persecutor, and to reap the fruits thereof (Exo 9:16). It was also determined that Christ should suffer by the hand of Herod and Pontius Pilate; “For of a truth,” said they, “against thy holy child Jesus – both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, for to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done” (Acts 4:27).

These are great instances, from which we may gather how all these things are ordered from thence down hitherto. For if a sparrow falls not to the ground without God, she shall not be killed without God; not by he knows not who. And if a Christian man is better than many sparrows, it follows, that God concerns himself more with, for, and about him than with, for, or about many sparrows. It follows, therefore, in right reason, that as the person who is appointed to be the sufferer, so the persons who are appointed to be the rod and sword thereby to afflict withal. Thus far, therefore, the will of God is it that ordereth and disposeth of us and of our sufferings.

John Bunyan- Seasonable Counsel or Advise to Sufferers