« ElőzőTovább »
nal from Heaven, of no ordinary import, that the Spirit is actually descendi:g in power on several of our large Cities and towns, as well as on Colleges and Seminaries of learning. The consequence of which is, that men of wealth and extended influence are brought to count all things but loss for Christ; and champions of truth and heralds of salvation are thus multiplied. At the same time, the Missionary channels, which are daily opening, and the Religious Publications, which are circulating, by thousands and by tens of thousands, afford facilities of communication, altogether unparallelled in the history of Christ's kingdom. So that now, as on the day of Pentecost, the influence of a great Revival might be at once felt through the world. Let, then, the whole multitude of disciples now lift up their eyes unto the Heavens ; let them say with one accord,--Come from the four winds, O Breath, and breathe
these slain, that they may live,-that thy way may be known upon earth, and thy saving health among all nations.
And now, ye commissioned servants of the Living God, this whole subject speaks with solemn emphasis to you and to me. But here, I am aware, it becomes a young man to be reserved. I will only repeat the words of one, whom, like Peter, the Spirit of God hath greatly ho. noured. -"How soon, my brethren, will the amazing realities of Judgment and Eternity break upon our unearthly vision, and fill us either with ecstacy or despair! I cast my thoughts forward but a little, and behold, the dead are rising, the elements melting, saints rejoicing, devils trembling. The Judge appears upon his great white throne-In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, we are before the judgment seat, with our respective flocks. The faithful and the unfaithful shepherds of every age are there. The trial proceeds, the books are closed, the final sentence is pronounced. The heavens are opened, and the pit yawns—the eternal song and the eternal wail are both begun. O may we then rise, with a great multitude saved through our unworthy instrumentality, to shine with them, as the brightness of the firmanent-aa the stars forever and ever.” AMEN,
HEBREWS, XII. 10.--But He for our profit, that we might be par,
takers of His holiness.
That there is a great deal of affliction in this world, none will deny. No period, no station, no circumstances of life are exempt. Sorrow invades us through a thousand different avenues. We suffer in our property, in our character, in our friends. Riches often take to themselves wings and flee away. Even the earnings of honest industry, the savings of temperance and economy, may be torn from us by the hand of adversity, and we be left in that state from which the wise man earnestly prayed to be preserved. Our character, our good name which is beller than precious ointment, the result of integrity and uprightness, may become the sport of the tale-bearer; may be assailed by the tongue of slander. In the sufferings of our friends our sorrow's may also be multiplied. Their death pierces our hearts with anguish of a peculiar kind. Our minds, while the body is in health, often feel the most exquisite sensations of pain. Hope deferred maketh the heart sick. Unexpected occurrences often blast our most sanguine expectations, and leave us to all the bitterness of disappointment. Our bodies, also, so fearfully and wonderfully made, are so much the more liable to disease and suffering. Every limb, every organ, every nerve, may be the seat of disorder and excruciating anguish. At length the principle of animal life is extinct; this earthly house is dissolved, and man goeth to his long home.
If such, then, be the fact; if no age, no station, no connexion in this life is exempted from suffering; if to be an inhabitant of this earth, ta No. 9.
be a child of Adam, is to be an heir of misery; surely the art of turning these afflictions to a good purpose-of deriving great and lasting benefit from them, must be more important to us, than the art of changing other substances into gold. For did we possess millions of wealth, this would not shield us from suffering and from death ; but if these afflictions work together for our good, then the immortal spirit may rejoice in tribulation, and triumph in hope, while the body suffers and dissolves, and returns to the earth as it was.
This lesson is frequently and clearly taught in the Bible: and, if we mistake not, in the text. Let us then contemplate,
I. THE LIGHT
WHICH AFFLICTIONS OUGHT TO
AND THE DISPOSITION WITH WHICH THEY OUGHT TO BE RECEIVED.
II. THEIR TENDENCY
VIEWED AND RECEIVED, TO
PROMOTE OUR SPIRITUAL INTEREST.
1. You are to view and receive afflictions as coming from the hand of
-as sent by Him whose kingdom ruleth over all. You have only to open your Bible, and this truth will meet your eye in almost every page. All those diseases to which you are liable, are most explicitly ascribed to divine agency. When nations, or individuals were to be chastised, the pestilence is called for, and its course is directed, until His purpose, who administers the correction, is fully accomplished. It is stated in Scripture, that all the diseases of Egypt, also every sickness and every plague, though not mentioned in the book of the law, are sent and controlled by the hand of God. If, in subsequent ages, intemperance and licentious habits of living, or any other causes, have generated diseases unknown to former times, still they do not move without His direction. And even death itself, the termination of all earthly enjoyment, is as clearly ascribed to God, as the creation of the world. I know, says the pious and afflicted Job, that thou wilt bring me to death. He killeth and he maketh alive. All other calamities with which you can possibly be afflicted are also his messengers. If the devouring flame consumes your property; if the tempest or hurricane visits you with desolation; this fire and this stormy wind are but his servants, fulfilling his pleasure.
It is true that these afflictions take place through the instrumentality of second causes; that is, they are sent in the dispensations of Providence, and not by miraculous power. Yet these second causes, many of them at least, have no intelligence, and of course, can form no design to visit you with affliction. Your diseases are often contracted from the air impregnated with noxious qualities. But this air, this vapour, holds no consultation, forms no design to produce this effect; and yet it does not take place without design. A second cause, indeed, necessarily implies the existence and agency of a First, controlling and directing the second. When, therefore, it is your Father's intention to afflict you with disease, he causeth the vapours to ascend from the ends of the earth, gives them their necessary qualities, directs their course, and limits their effect, and His purpose is accomplished. This is true respecting all the calamities with which you may be visited; whatever means may be employed, the hand which guides them is the hand of God. Your own agency may be thus employed; your safety may be secured through your own prudence and care; or your health may be restored, your sorrows lightened by means of human skill. In either case, however, the wisdom and the power of God are to be acknowledged. His wisdom forms the design ; his hand guides the progress and limits the effect of all these means. Also, when you are chastised, whatever the rod may be, it is your Father's hand, which administers the chastisement. Afliction cometh not forth of the dust, neither doth trouble spring out of the ground. They must be traced back to the Great First Cause, with whom there is neither chance nor accident; but who works according to a definite plan, formed after the council of his own wisdom.
2. You are to view and receive your afflictions as deserved. You are not for a moment to suppose, that they are arbitrary in their design, or sent without such reasons as are amply sufficient to justify them, in the view of infinite justice and wisdom. The Lord doth not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men. There is a cause for every kind and degree of sorrow which you taste.: and this cause is found in yourselves; in your own sinfulness.
Why has this world, in every age, exhibited snch scenes of protracted and complicated misery? Why is every child of Adam born heir to a large inheritance of suffering? From what inexhaustible source have these streams of bitterness continued to flow and overspread the earth? This world, with all its changes, from the greatest to the very least, is under the government of a being, infinite in wisdom, power and goodness. His power could prevent these sufferings, if the designs of his wisdom required it; his goodness would prevent them, if there were not cause for a different treatment of us. When this world came from the hand of its Creator, it bore no marks of his displeasure. Every thing proclaimed his benignity. But now, this earth is filled with miseries; the unequivocal marks of the divine displeasure ; and the man's transition from time to eternity is often attended by circumstances most appalling to human feelings.
The Bible gives us the only satisfactory information on this subject, so solemnly interesting to us. Death, indeed, with all his ministers, with all his precursors, has reigned, and is reigning over the human race. Sin, however, had first entered; and misery and death are its legitimate consequences. By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin ; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned. The first man wilfully transgressed the positive command of God, and thereby drew down upon himself the divine displeasure, and subjected his posterity, in every age, to misery and death. Sin, therefore, is the procuring cause of all the sufferings of men; and, as all have sinned, so all inherit this legacy of wo. This accounts for all your calamities, and shows their perfect consistency with that Goodness which gaverns the world.
The sufferings of men, it is true, are great; but their guilt is still greater. Take a single individual, for the sake of experiment ; observe him through every stage of life ; form an estimate of all his suf. ferings of mind and of body; finish the account with his dying agonies; and then multiply this amount by all the woes of all the millions of mankind who have lived and suffered since the creation : and how amazing will be the result! If any difficulty should arise in attempting to reconcile this inconceivable amount of misery with the goodness of God; make another estimate. Take the same, or some other individual; consider him as a moral agent, accountable to God for what he is, and for what he does; consider his sins of childhood, of youth, of manhood, of old age, in thought, in word, and in deed; consider the ag. gravation of these sins from a variety of causes from the preserving care, and the forbearance of God, and above all from the abuse of infinite mercy, offered through a crucified Saviour; multiply this amount of guilt, -we know not by what numbers-by such, however, as will correspond with the millions of men who have lived and sinned from the first to the present moment. There is no necessity to exceed the truth. The guilt of one individual exceeds the comprehension of men or angels; the guilt of a world can be comprehended only by the Infinite Mind. Your amazement must now be, not that there is so much,—but so lillle suffering in the world; not that such a vast and irresistible tide of misery has deluged and swept the earth of its inhabitants, but that a single trace of divine benignity is to be found ; that a single blessing is enjoyed, in a world filled with such bold and wilful rebellion. There is no feature of the divine government calculated to strike the mind with more profound and holy admiration, than the forbearance of our of