Monday, July 13, 2009

What is patience in relation to providence?

Thomas Goodwin in his invaluable treatise on Patience and its Perfect Work says, 'if you now ask a description of patience, as it thus respects suffering the will of God, we must give it as it is in the word of God in the height, for that is the rule itself that directs to it, and not down it to what is found in our hearts. And yet that which afterwards follows, and will confirm every tittle of it, is drawn mostly from examples of the saints, either in the Old or New Testaments, which shew that it is attainable, though with allowance to defects, which accompany all graces in this life.

It is a constant, thankful, joyful enduring, with perseverance to the end of a man's life, all the trials that are grievous, how great, how long, how hopeless soever as to coming out of them; mortifying and compescing the inordinacy of opposite passions, as fear, grief, care, anxiety, which wifi arise upon such afflictions; with submitting to God's will, for God's glory, and his good pleasure's sake; still blessing and sanctifying God in all, waiting on God, and relieving one's self by faith in what is to be had in God, and from God, in communion with him, and from his love, in this life; in expectation also of that glory which is the reward after this life ended.

I might, in this place, confirm every word and tittle of this description, either out of examples of holy men or the rules which the word gives. But I omit the set collection of such proofs here, because that, scatteredly, up and down, in the particulars that follow, this will be found performed'.

The definition may seem easy to one who feels crushed and bruised by Providence and in great perplexity. In this relation there is a very helpful meditation that can be made use of in a book by the puritan Thomas White which is called A Method and Instructions for the Art of Divine Meditation:

O blessed God, if the way of thy Providence be such, that thou wilt not give so much Grace as to make me, through the abundance of it, almost whether I will or no, to serve thee, yet to whom thou dost give so much grace as to desire more grace, O let not this desire which is of thy own infusing; be in vain, if there be any thing in the whole world that I desire more than thy grace, then let me want grace to desire it any more; Lord, if the reason why thou deniest my prayer, be, because I do not desire as I ought, I humbly beseech thee to grant that I ask aright; alas my afflictions lie heavier on me then ever they did, and I am more wicked, or at least less holy then ever since my conversion I was; how little am I affected with any thing that belongs to thy service, nor yet doth it affect me that I am not affected: Lord, if there were any in heaven or in earth that could help me besides thee, then considering my Manifold Sins, I should; I but Lord, I would not, thy Mercies are so great, go to any other: Now Lord, now is the time to have Mercy upon me; I am like the Man that went from Jerusalem to Jericho, wounded, naked, and half dead, I cannot call for help, O let my wounds move thee to compassion; if I could bewail my sinful Misery with tears of Repentance, I know thou wouldest deliver me, but I cannot weep, nay, hardly mourn; Oh faint, faint is my grief, and cold is my love! What wilt thou do, Lord, with one that scarcely from his heart desires to serve thee: Alas, what canst thou do for me more or less, then to make me desire to serve thee! Accept I must, or for ever be lost: What a low degree of goodness am I come unto? a soul full of sadness, and empty of goodness; To morrow, Lord, I am to receive thee into my soul, thee my blessed Saviour: Lord, thou knowest I did not use to have a heart so empty of goodness, when I expected thee to come next day.