The Twelfth Rule, or Direction.
Make good interpretations of all Gods waies and dealings with thee. This is a mighty help to us to keep on in the way of God, and to walk with him. If God comes in a way of affliction, make good interpretation of the affliction, do not presently conclude, that God appears like an enemy to thee, that will discourage thee in the waies of God; but look upon God as intending good unto thee in every thing; and that will help thee to keep close to him, and to walk close with him in every condition: If God seems to go out of the way of prosperity, and to come in the way of affliction, make good interpretations of it: do not therefore think that God is therefore leaving of thee and forsaking thee, but exercise faith in this, and beleeve that God may intend as much good to thee in that way as in any way whatsoever, and I ground this rule upon that text in the 12. Heb. In the former part of the chapter the Apo∣stle speaks of Gods chastening of his people, My Son despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art re∣buked of him; for whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scour∣geth every son whom he receiveth: and in the 7. verse, If ye en∣dure chastening then God dealeth with you as with sons: for what son is he whom the father chasieneth not? but if ye be without chastisements whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards and not sons. So still he goes on in the point of chastisement, in the 9, 10, 11. verses he speaks of nothing but of chastise∣ments, now then in the 12. verse he draws a conclusion from thence, having laid this as a ground, that we are to look upon God as a father in his chastisements, WhereforePage 333then lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, and make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way. As if he should say, when as you appre∣hend God in a way of wrath against you, and not in a way of love, your knees will be feeble and you will not be able to go on with that cheerfulness, and to walk with God in that hard way that he seems to call you too: But looking upon your selves as sons, and God intending good unto you, that by chastisements you may be made partakers of his holiness; now saith he, lift up your hands that hang down, and those feeble knees, those feeble knees that were so weak whereby you were difinabled to walk with God: Those feeble knees will be strengthened if you make good interpretation of the waies of God, and beleeve that the Lord intends good unto you. And as in other chastise∣ments, so among the rest the chastisements of spiritual dis∣certions; when God not only comes with outward afflicti∣ons upon you, but when the Lord shall come against you, even himself with spiritual discertions, and afflictions, e∣ven afflicting your souls you must make good interpretati∣ons of them.
You will say, That's hardest to walk with God; In∣deed we may walk with God, and keep on in communion with him notwithstanding outward afflictions, but when the Lord seems to withdraw himself, and when there is both outward and inward too, that's hard: For outward afflictions, I will give you one notable Scripture for a child of God, following hard after God though God seeme to withdraw himself from the soul, in the 63. Psal. where by the title of the Psalm you shall find that David was in the wilderness of Judah, and that was when Saul did persecute him for his life: Saul persecuted David and fol∣lowed him, and David was fain to sculk up and down in the wilderness of Judah from place to place, and yet mark, O God, thou art my God, (for all that) early will I seek thee, my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thir∣sty land, where no water is: And then in the 8. verse, MyPage 334soul followeth hard after thee; though Lord thou seem'st to withdraw thy self from me in regard of these outward ad∣ministrations, yet my soul followeth hard after thee (saith David) notwithstanding. If times of affliction, when God seems to withdraw himself by his afflictions, yet our souls should follow hard after God: Doth God seem to go from us as if he would not walk with us? Oh run after him: As a poor child if the mother seems to go away from it, and gets over a stile before it, the child cries and runs after: So it was with David, when the Lord did seem by those administrations of his to be going away from him, saith he, My soul follows hard after him. And this is an excel∣lent frame of spirit, that the more the Lord seems to be gone from a Christian, the more hard doth the soul follow after God, nothing can satisfie such a one but God himself; and therefore he saith, Lord, my soul thirsteth after Thee in a dry land, he doth not say after water, but after Thee. So in any affliction, if thou canst say this, Lord, it is not so much the deliverance from an affliction that my soul thirsteth after, but Oh Lord! thou knowest my soul thirsts after thee, and may the affliction be but made up in thy self it is sufficient, I never find my soul following more earnestly after thee than now in the time of my affliction.