John Flavel (1628-1691), writing in an introduction to his sermon on suffering, encourages us to prepare for suffering that we may embrace it when it comes, not to be surprised but to long that we may glorify Christ through it if it is God’s will.
It is as much our interest as it is our duty to be seasonably awakened out of our pleasant but most pernicious drowsiness. Troubles will be so much the more sinking and intolerable, by how much the more they steal upon us by way of surprizal. For look, as expectation deflowers any temporal comfort, by sucking out much of the sweetness thereof before-hand, and so we find the less in it when we come to the actual enjoyment: So the expectation of evils abates much of the dread and terror, by accustoming our thoughts before-hand to them, and making preparation for them: So that we find them not so grievous, amazing, and intolerable when they are come indeed.
This was exemplified to us very lively by holy Mr. Bradford the martyr, when the keeper’s wife came running into his chamber, saying,’ O Mr. Bradford, I bring you heavy tidings, for to-morrow you must’ be burned, your chain is now buying, and presently you must go to’ Newgate.’ He put off his hat, and looking up to heaven, said, OLord, I thank thee for it; I have looked for this a long time; It comes not suddenly to me, the Lord make me worthy of it. See in this example the singular advantage of a prepared and ready soul.
Reader, The cup of sufferings is a very bitter cup, and it is but needful that we provide somewhat to sweeten it, that we may be able to receive it with thanksgiving; and what those sweetening ingredients are, and how to prepare them, you will have some direction and help in the following discourse; which hath once already been presented to the public view; and that it may at this time also (wherein nothing can be more seasonable) become farther useful and assisting to the people of God in their present duties, is the hearty desire of
Thine and the Church’s Servant in Christ, JOHN FLAVEL.