11. BUT THERE IS STILL ANOTHER REASONING WITH WHICH MANY MURMURING HEARTS THINK TO FEED THEIR HUMOR. THEY SAY, 'If I never had been in a better condition then I could bear this affliction, if God had always kept me in such a low condition, I could be content. Oh, but there was a time when I prospered more, and my hands were full, and therefore now it is harder for me to be brought low, as at present.' Perhaps a man had five or six hundred a year, but now has had nothing for a great while: if that man had not been born to so much, or had never prospered in any higher degree than he is now in, the affliction would have been less. Perhaps he has some money and friends to live on, but if he had never been in a higher condition, he would not have accounted it so great a thing to have been without it now.
This, many times, is our greatest wound, that once we were in a better condition; but it is the most unreasonable thing for us to murmur upon this ground of any.
1. For is your eye evil because God has been good to you heretofore? It is a bad thing for us to have our eye evil because God is good to others, but to look upon our condition with an evil eye now, because God was once good to us!-has God done you any wrong because he was formerly more good to you than he was to others?
2. Did God give you more prosperity before? It was to prepare you for affliction. We should look at all our outward prosperity as a preparation for afflictions. If you had done so, then it would not have been so difficult for you to endure afflictions now. If when you had great wealth, you made use of the mercy of God to prepare you for your afflicted estate, then the change of your estate would not be so grievous. Every Christian should say: 'Have I wealth now? I should prepare for poverty. Have I health now? I should prepare for sickness. Have I liberty? Let me prepare myself for imprisonment. How do I know what God may call me to? Have I comfort and peace now in my conscience, does God shine upon me? While I have this let me prepare for God's withdrawing from me. Am I delivered from temptations? Let me prepare now for the time of temptations.' If you would do so, the change of your condition would not be so grievous to you.
Sailors who are in a calm prepare for storms; would they say, 'If we never had calms we could bear storms, but we have had calms so many years or weeks together, that this is grievous? In your calm you are to prepare to storms, and the storm will be less.
You should reason quite contrary to what you do and say: 'Now I am in an afflicted condition, but, blessed be God, I was in a comfortable condition, and, blessed be God, that he was before with me in his mercy': this one consideration may help murmuring hearts. Do you murmur because once you were better? Know that God was before with you in mercy, and you should rather thing thus: I have lived for these many years, perhaps forty years or more, in a comfortable condition, I have lived in health, and peace, and plenty; what though the remaining part of my time should have some sorrow and affliction? The Lord has granted to me a comfortable sunshine all the day long towards evening, and what if at seven or eight o'clock at night it begins to rain? Let me thank God I have had such fair weather all day. If you are on a voyage, and you have a comfortable wind, and very fair weather for many months together, what if you have a little storm when you are within sight of land? Will you murmur and repine? Oh now, but you rather bless God that you have had such a comfortable voyage so long.
Oh, this consideration would help us all. If God should now say, 'Well, you will never see comfortable days again in outward things in this world', then, you have cause to fall down and bless God's name that you have had so many comfortable days. Now you reason quite contrary: whereas you should bless God that you have had so much comfort, you make what you have had before an aggravation of your afflictions now, and so murmur and are discontented.
On what terms did you hold what God gave you before? Did you hold it so that you have in your papers, 'To have and to hold for ever'? God gives no such thing, God gives to no man, I say, anything but grace to run upon that tenure. There is no such thing in all God's writings for any outward comforts as, 'To have and to hold for you and your heirs.' Indeed, grave he gives to yourselves, to have and to hold for ever, though not for everyone who comes out of your loins to have and to hold for ever; but God does not give any outward thing upon such tenure as that. If God gives me an understanding of himself, and faith, and humility, and love, and patience, and such graces of his Spirit, he gives me them for ever, if he gives me himself, and his Christ, and his promises, and his covenant, he gives me them for ever. Who am I, therefore, that the sun should always shine upon me, that I must have fair weather all my days? What God gives to me, he gave it as a pledge of his love; let me return it to him as a pledge of my obedience. There is all the reason in the world for it: all that a godly man receives from God he receives as a pledge of god's love to him; therefore when he comes into an afflicted condition, God says, 'Return to me as a pledge of your obedience, what you had from me as a pledge of my love.' We should cheerfully come to God and bless God that we have anything to render to him as a pledge of our obedience, and should say, 'Oh, it is your love, O Lord, which has given us everything, which enables us to render a pledge of our obedience to you.' When God calls for your wealth or any comforts that you have, God calls for it as a pledge of your obedience to him.