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fended Sovereign-in that this earth, deluged with crimes, is not made the theatre of immediate and inexorable vengeance on the workers of iniquity. Truly judgment is His strange work ; goodness and mercy are his delight.
Here, then, you see the true cause of all the sufferings of mankind, and of your own individually. It is sin. Let then the association of sin as the cause, and misery as the consequence, be so clear, and so habitual in your mind, that whenever you witness or suffer the chastise. ments of God, sin may present itself as that which deserves this suffering. Deal honestly and faithfully with yourself. Lose not yourself in the crowd, by simply admitting that you belong to a sinful race, and are thus liable to your part of the sufferings which that race deserves. Content not yourself with viewing sin in the aggregate, a part of which belongs to you. This will never produce that impression with which you ought to receive afflictions. Men of wealth are not will. ing, in this manner, to dispose of their property; to throw it into a common stock from which they will receive but an equal share with others, or only so much as their real wants may demand. Here they contend for individual right. With the saine care ought you to keep the account of your own sins. Others may be more or less guilty ihan yourself. You may witness and lament their sins; but you ought to feel and confess your own. Then will you be deeply convinced that you deserve all the sufferings with which God is pleased to visit you.
3. You ought to view and receive your afflictions as intended to promore your improrement in holiness ;- cas means to correct the evil dis. positions of your heart, and the sinful habits and practices of your life. Your afflictions, of every kind and degree, are sent with design; and this design is always good and wise. Such is the testimony of the Bi. ble; and especially of that passage from which our text is taken. God is represented as administering his chastisements-not as a stranger, much less as an enemy,---but as a kind and affectionate Father. Earthly parents may love their children; yet they are imperfect; some degree of unhallowed feeling may mingle with their love; the correction which they give, may be, in part, to gratify this feeling. Yet because the correction is deserved, and right in itself, the good child will submit, and reverence the hand which corrects. Your Heavenly Father can have no such desire to gratify in your affliction; your suffering, considered in itself, gives him no pleasure. He corrects with no other intention than to render you more humble, more patient, more watchful, more devoted
to his service. These distresses, these siftings, are for the trial of your faith, that it may be strengthened, and thus be found unto praise and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ.
A child would consider the stripes inflicted by an enemy, as given to gratify hatred or malice; of course, irritation and resentment would be the result: or, perhaps, a slavish fear and dread. But if corrected by a benevolent parent, who is believed to have the kindest intention, the result will be reformation, dutiful submission, and increased affection for the parent. Let this child be the pattern for your imitation. Though you know that your afflictions come from the hand of God; and that you deserve them; yet, unless you receive them as given in love, they will not produce the desired effect. When, therefore, the rod of correction is felt, do not consider Him who holds it, as a Judge, inflicting the punishment which justice demands ; but as a Father, watching over you with loving kindness; yearning over you with the most tender commiseration while you suffer; calling you back from your wanderings to cheerful obedience, to greater confidence in His grace, and to more intimate communion with Himself. Thus viewed, your afflictions
may work for good ;—may fit you for that rest which remaineth for the people
4. Receive your afflictions with humble and earnest prayer to God, that they may exert a sanctifying influence ;—that your ignorance of. their design, your unbelief, your impenitence may not render them ineffectual. You as much need the influences of the Divine Spirit, in making a right improvement of your afflictions, as in exercising faith and repentance. The Gospel, in itself, is calculated to produce a powerful and happy effect on the human mind; yet, unless the quickening Spirit accompanies this Gospel, it will be resisted, and fail of producing this effect. So your afflictions, though in themselves calculated to correct your errors and promote your spiritual interests, will not produce these effects, unless God, the Spirit, of his good pleasure worketh in you, both to will and to do. Is it criminal and dangerous to neglect the Gospel and its great salvation? So is it to neglect the Fatherly chastisements appointed for you. That same infinite wisdom, which designed the wondrous plan of redemption, designed these chastisements as means, in part, of preparing you for the inheritance of the saints in light. Are the sufferings and death of the Divine Saviour evidence of the love of God? So are the sorrows, which you are called to endure in this life. You are as certainly accountable to God for the improvement or neglect of your afflictions, as of the Gospel, or of the Saviour himself.
Ask, then, with humble importunity, and God will cause your afflictions to produce in you the peaceable fruits of righteousness. If
you should, with kindness and discretion, administer correction to your child, and it should manifest an indifference to the effect of that correction, your displeasure would be increased; because your intention and your hopes would be disappointed. If it should manifest opposition to your intention, you would be still more displeased; because this would be still further from your hopes than mere indifference. In like manner your Heavenly Father must be displeased, if you feel indifferent respecting the effect which your afflictions may produce; and still more so,
you feel opposed to the design with which they are sent. The only way, therefore, to avoid this displeasure, is to cherish an earnest desire that they may make you wise unto salvation; that by them you may be purified, like gold tried with fire: that the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, may be found unto praise and honour, and glory, at the appearing of Jesus Christ.
And now, brethren, in review of what has been suggested, let the honest inquiry be made by each of you—With what spirit are you accustomed to regard the afflictive visitations of Providence? Do you view and receive them, as coming from the hand of God? In the day of adversity, do you hear Him speaking to you, in language plainer and more impressive than an audible voice from heaven? Or are you utterly regardless of the Source, whence afflictions come, and of the lessons they inculcate ?
Do you view and receive them, as deserved by your transgressions ? and, indeed, as infinitely less grievous than your sins deserve? Or are you accustomed to consider your case as hard ? and your
afflictions as coming upon you without just cause ? Do you thus charge God with severity ? or do you say, in meek submission, Righteous art thou, O Lord, and upright are thy judgments ?
Do you view and receive afflictions, as intended to promote your spiritual improvement ? and do they have this effect on your heart? Do they make you more humble, more patient, more heavenly-minded, more kind to your neighbour, and more devoted to God? Or do they have the awful effect of hardening your heart, and alienating your affections from God and your fellow-men? Can you say, with the pious psalmist, Before I was afflicted, I went astray; but now have I kept thy word ? Or have you rather dealt proudly-despised reproof-sinned against judge ments—and thus been treasuring up wrath against the day of wrath?
Have you received afflictions with humble and earnest prayer, that
they might be sanctified to you ?--ihat by them you might be made viser and better? Or have you rather yielded to them as a matter of uen cessily-without one earnest petition, that the chastisements of God might make you wise unto salvation ?
God, in his holy providence, is thus putting each of you on trial;—is giving you the opportunity of sitting in judgment on your own soul, before you come to the treinendous trial of the Great Day. O, be faithful 10 yourself noiv, that you may not be ashamed and confounded in that Day. And do thou still search us, Great God, and lry us, if need be, in the midst of the furnace-that we may not fall under the power of thine: anger, when there is none lo deliver !
HEBREWS, XII. 10.-Bul He for our profil, that we might be partakers
of His holiness.
Having, in the preceding discourse, contemplated the light in which afflictions ought to be viewed, and the disposition with which they ought to be received; we are now,
II. TO CONSIDER THEIR
TENDENCY WHEN THUS VIEWED AND
RECEIVED TO PROMOTE OUR SPIRITUAL INTEREST.
That we might le parlakers of his holiness :-that is, of the holiness which he requires. Holiness consists in conformity to the will of God. Its great and operative principle is faith in Christ; or the knowledge and cordial belief of the Bible. This word, which is quick and powerful, vital and energetic, like seed sown in good ground, has its fruit unto holiness, the end of which is elernal life. Adictions have a tendency 10 promote the great work.
1. They leach you the evil nature of sin, on account of which they are sent, and point you to the Saviour. Practical lessons are the best of all lessons. In the Scriptures you are taught, that sin is an evil,-a great and destructive evil; in the calamities of life you taste, in some degree, the bitterness of this evil. The Lord is graciously pleased to vouehsafe to his beloved children an earnest, a foretaste of the joys which are at his right hand; and thus to encourage, animate, and lead them on towards the heavenly Zion. So does he, in the numerous and various afflictions of life, give a foretaste of the inseparable consequences of sin. Thus you experience the truth of the Bible. This experience of the bitterness of sin, will awaken that fear, which is natural to man under the apprehension of danger, and which becomes a powerful motive urging you to seek a refuge from that wrath, of which you have now but a forelasie. No refuge can be found, that will answer this purpose, but in the crucified Saviour. Whatever, therefore, will bring you to this Saviour, partakes of the nature of holiness; for it is according to the will of God. For this is his commandment, that we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ. That Divine Redeemer, by whom you are saved from wrat!, will thus become exceedingly precious, and you
will cleare lo him with full purpose of heart. More to be desired, will His word become, in your estimation, than gold, yea, thun much fine gold; sweeter, also, than honey and the honey-comb. Gratitude will thus habitually spring up in your bosom : the derout language of which will be, Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable Gift. Here you find a safe refuge from the impending vengeance. The love and power of sin will thus be destroyed; and faith in Jesus Christ, and love to God will reign in your heart.
In this world where sin prevails, there is no possible escape from sorrow and distress. This circumstance will endear so much the more to your heart, that heaven, where there is no sin, and of course, no sorrow; where Goil shall wipe away lears from off all faces. As the hireling longs for the setting sun, when his labour will end; as the mariner, clinging to a single fragment of his broken ship, thinks of the safety enjoyed on shore; so, by the sorrows and conflicts of this troublous region, will you be reminded of that blissful state, where the wicked cease from troubling, and the weary are at rest. These conflicts will cause the soul to stretch all her powers, with more intense desire, towards that belter country, where alone there is exemption from calamity and pain. These desires not only support you under your afflictions, but they prepare you for the joy of your Lord. Thus death, the last enemy, will be disarmed of his sting: and heaven will be endeared to your hearts. Blessed effects, precious fruits of affliction !
2. Afflictions teach you another practical, and therefore useful lesson ;— The uiler insufficiency of this world, as a portion for the soul. Iu days of prosperity you may not be thoroughly convinced of this. The enjoyments of life have their place and their value, and deniand your gratitude to God; the sympathies and endearments of friendship are im