Again, this providence of God in everything, teaches contentation1 of mind in every estate; yea, in adversity when we lie under the cross, so that all things go against us, forasmuch as God’s providence has appointed us our lot and position. When we live in peace, and have abundance of outward means to maintain us, as plenty, riches, health, pleasure, friends, liberty, and such like, we must remember from whom they come, and so be put in mind to be thankful for them, because they come not to us by chance, but by God’s providence: so that we must not barely look upon them, nor wholly rest upon them, but behold his goodness and blessing in them. For if we consider aright that all prosperity comes from him, as meat, drink, ease, peace, and all plenty, who is not pricked forward, and stirred up unto thanksgiving towards so loving and bountiful a Father? Hence, it is that the apostle says, “In all things give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus” [1 Thess. 5:18.]. The prophet Isaiah2 complains of the unthankfulness of the Jews toward God, “I have nourished and brought up children, but they have rebelled against me, the ox knows his owner, and the ass his mater’s crib, but Israel has not known me, my people have not obeyed me” [Isa. 1:4,5,6,7.]. The prophet David dealt otherwise, and behaved himself with greater duty, teaching us all what to do, when he says, “What shall I render unto the Lord for al his benefits towards me? I will take up the cup of salvation, and praise the name of the Lord” [Psal. 116:12.]. But when these outwards things, whereby life is maintained do fail us, we must not fail to remember, whence famine, war, pestilence, sickness, trouble, and affliction come, that there is no evil in the city which the Lord has not done, Amos 3:6.
Moreover, let us depend upon him for the time to come, assuring ourselves that he will not leave us, not forsake us. He gives us every day experience of his mercies, so that by remembrance of benefits received from him, we cannot doubt of his favor towards us. Lastly, this should be a very strong reason unto us, not to be unmeasurably dismayed, nor excessively offended, when offences and great evils break out among us, as oftentimes it falls out, whereby many are ready to shrink back, and others are much disquieted to see the church of God troubled. We are not to think it strange, or to forsake the faith through these scandals: for God would not suffer any evil to come to pass, unless out of that evil he were able to bring good, and out of that sin to bring forth righteousness, to the glory of his great name, and for the salvation of his dear church. He would never have left Adam unto himself, if he had not determined out of his fall, to gain praise to himself, and to provide better for his people. It is necessary that offences come, but woe to that man by whom they come: Let us not, therefore, fret ourselves because of the wicked men, neither be envious for the evil doers, for they shall soon be cut down like grass, and shall wither as the green herb. And we must rest, and be resolved assuredly, that God does not allow or favor their sin, nor purposes to free them from the guilt and punishment of sin, howsoever he turns there wicked purpose to a good end. For sin is the transgression of his Law [1 John 3:4, John 8:44.]. But God never swerves nor strays from the straight rule of his own will, neither puts wickedness into man, but as the earth affording sap and moisture as well as to evil trees, as the good, cannot be reproved, because the cause why the evil trees bring forth evil fruit is of themselves and their own nature, or as the sun that raises evil smells, and noisome favors from their unsavory puddles, cannot justly be found fault withal, because the reason thereof is not in the sunbeams, in those corrupt places, even so, when God disposes to good ends the sins of men that proceed from the instigation of the Devil, and abide in the ungodly themselves, he cannot be called the cause or author of sin, although by his providence he moves all things, yea, even the ungodly, that are not tbe able to move or remove themselves.
Lastly, seeing God’s providence extends to everything that is, and disposes it according to his own pleasure, it directs us in our obedience, and puts us in mind of a Christian duty: namely, to be patient in adversity. If we consider that nothing can befall us, but that which is sent by the fatherly will and counsel of God, who has always just causes to exercise his children with chastisements, either to try them, or to humble them: we shall learn to submit ourselves to him, to hold our peace because he has done it, and to keep silence, that we offend not against him [Psal. 39:9.]. This will keep us that we do not rage against second causes, that we do not mutter and murmur against God. That we seek not the revenge our enemies.
William Attersoll, A Commentary Upon the Epistle of Saint Paule to Philemon (Printed at London by Tho. Cotes, and are to be sold by Michael Speake, dwelling at the sign of the blue Bible in Greene-Arbor, 1633), 302-304. [Some spelling modernized; marginal references cited inline; footnote mine; and underlining mine.]
1Archaic word denoting ‘to be content.’