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portant sources of human happiness. But none of these, nor all of these together, can satisfy the heart oppressed with heavy affliction. No sooner do the waves of adversity strike and break around you, than you feel your need of consolation from a higher Source. To the man, whose heart is bleeding under the anguish of the last adieu of some dear friend, the splendours of wealth have lost their power to give comfort. God alone can be his Comforter. If he has taken the world as his portion, he now finds it utterly insufficient to drive away his sorrow, or to support hinn under it. To the man whose spirit is departing to another state, the pleasures, the honours, the riches of this world are unavailing. To him an humble hope in the mercy of God is of more value than the wealth and sceptre of empires. Plainly and frequently as this truth is taught in the Bible, yet how slow are men to learn; how slight is the conviction which it leaves on the mind! To quicken your perception, to render this conviction more deep and influential, your heavenly Father, with great kindness and wisdom, uses his chastising rod; and thus gives you a practical sense of his own truth. You are thus brought to see, that in the hour of affliction, or on the bed of death, your choice is not between different sources of earthly comfort; for these all fail; but between absolute despair and the Lord Jehovah, as the joy of your heart.
This will explain a case which you have sometimes witnessed, and perhaps experienced. A slight affliction may overcome and disquiet the mind with suspicions and complaints, with rebellious murmurings and repinings, and occasion a degree of distress quite disproportioned to the cause by which it is produced; while a much heavier stroke is perhaps borne with meek submission, with heavenly fortitude. The slight affliction touches but one rivulet of earthly pleasure, and you have recourse to those which are still left; but the heavier stroke dries up
very source of all earthly comfort, and leaves you to sink, or depend on God alone. The slight affliction you attempt to bear in your own strength, which is perfect weakness; the heavier stroke is no sooner felt, than you are convinced, that if the same God who inflicts the wound, does not heal, you must be overwhelmed; and your language now is, Lord save, or I perish.
Sometimes what you call afflictions are sent to remove those objects which occupy more of your thoughts and affections than is consistent with sincere and entire devotedness to God. That wealth which is imperceptibly, it may be, but really, withdrawing your heart from God, is lost through the fraud or negligence of others; or it is borne away on the wings of devouring flame; or it is ingulphed in the ocean. That
fame which was producing similar effects, is assailed by the tongue of slander. That friend, that dear child, whose increasing loveliness, whose unfolding beauties, were entwining themselves more closely with every fibre of your heart, is cut down like a flower, in the morning of life. These endearing objects are removed, that you may be delivered from the snare which they bring, and that your heart may be given supremely to God.
Sometimes one affliction is intended to prevent another that would be more grievous. Had Absalom died in infancy the grief of his father would have been much less than it was from the subsequent life and death of that ungrateful son. When Joseph's coat was presented to his father, the venerable patriarch was deeply afflicted, and refused to be comforted. Yet this affliction had a connection, mysterious, indeed, a the moment, with the preservation of his own life, and the life of his whole family. The righteous are sometimes taken away from the evil to come. Welcome, therefore, should be those calamities, which are kind. ly intended, and which often produce the happiest effects. They should engrave on your heart this truth; O Lord God of hosts, blessed is the man who trusteth in Thee.
3. Afflictions excite and increase some of the most amiable and pious dispositions of the human heart; and thus greatly promote your spiritual interest. Unless some disappointment is experienced, unless the loss of some valued object is sustained, there is no place for submission to the will of God; there is nothing to call this disposition into exercise. No man knows what his character really is, until he is tried; nor until these trials are so varied, as to reach every principle of action, and source of feeling. If all your schemes were successfully accomplished; if all that you esteem valuable remained safe in your possession, you would not know, whether or not, in a change of circumstances, you could exercise that calm resignation that meek submission—which becomes the Christian character. That you may have this proof of your love to God—that you may perfect holiness in the fear of God-he sends you these trials, varied and repeated, according to his wisdom, until the object is answered; until, in the spirit of holy acquiescence, you are enabled to say, under the severest disappointments and losses; The Lord gave and the Lord hath taken away; and blessed be the name of the Lord : Not my will, but thine be done.
Patience is another Christian virtue, for the exercise of which exemption from suffering would leave no room. Unless some degree of pain is actually felt, you can no more exercise patience than you can
forgive when no injury has been received. Without this feature, your character would be imperfect, as the human countenance would be with the loss of one of its features. It is, therefore, the design and the tendency of affliction to supply this deficiency; for tribulation worketh patience. Therefore, my brethren, count it all joy, when ye fall into divers lemptations : knowing this, that the trying of your faith workelh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.
You have not only trials sent for the exercise of this virtue, but have examples set before you for initation. You have the prophets, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience; you have Job, not less distinguished for his calamities than for the patience with which he endured them. You have all those, who, through faith and patience, inherit the promises; and you have above all, the example of Jesus, the Saviour, who patiently endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. Despise not, therefore, these chastenings of the Lord; for they have an important influence in preparing you for the joys and glories of heaven. Through them the love of God is shed abroad in your heart, by the Holy Spirit.
4. This reminds us of another important advantage resulting from afflictions: When viewed in their true light, and received with a proper spirit, they are most satisfactory proofs of the love of God. This point is illustrated by a reference to earthly parents. You love your own child. This love is manifested not only by a prompt and kind attention to all its real wants, but also by correction, when deemed necessary. Should you neglect to give this correction, it would be a proof that your affection for the child is not genuine. It is not love, but hatred, according to the language of inspiration, from which such neglect proceeds. He that spareth his rod, hateth his son ; but he that loveth him, chastiseth him betimes. (Prov. xiii. 24) The child desires nothing but present indul. gence, perfectly ignorant, and, of course, regardless, what influence this indulgence will have on its future life. But you are not ignorant of this influence; observation and experience have convinced you, that many of the habits formed, and the passions and appetites nourished by such in. dulgence, would be destructive of its future usefulness, respectability and peace. It is therefore the dictate of reason and humanity, as well as of inspiration, that if milder measures fail to answer the purpose,
correction must be administered; and the most sincere and tender love that ever warmed the parental bosom, will lead to such correction; not once or twice only, but as often as it shall be needed; until the child is taught to follow, as its guide, your will, not its own. If you neglect this correction, you will be accountable for the future misery and disgrace of this child; and in the day of final reckoning, its ruin may be found charged to your want of proper affection. At the same time, if your kindness has been what it ought to be, the child will feel the assurance of your love. My father, it will say, or my mother, has always been kind to me; has provided for my wants; has relieved my distresses; in her own bosom has soothed my sorrows; with great watchfulness has guarded me from dan. ger; I know, I feel, that she loves me. But the very hand, which has so often wiped away my tears, now corrects me, now gives me pain. Although she loves me, she is displeased with my conduct, because it is wrong, and will lead to some future evil, from which she wishes and in. tends to preserve me by this correction; I will, therefore, submit, and love her the more for this kindness.
All this is plain, and of easy application to your case. You are igno. rant of the changes which await you in future; you cannot tell whal a day or an hour may bring forth; nor can you tell what influence present events may have on these changes, or what will best prepare you for them. Still less do you know the influence which temporal occurrences may have on your eternal existence; to raise you higher, or sink you lower in the mansions of bliss. But all this is known to your Father in heaven. He sees what influence present events will have on those which are future; and what the effect of all these events will be on your condi. tion in eternity. His plan of discipline is so wisely arranged that one event shall prepare you for the next in order; this, again, for the next; and that the whole series, terminating only with death, shall have a happy bearing on your everlasting state. If he sees that afflictions will produce effects on your character which other means have failed to produce; effects which are essential to your future advancement in holiness, and 20 your final exaltation in glory; he may, in kindness, subject you to losses of property, of reputation, of health, of friends. He may thus de tach your affections from an unsatisfying world, and promote in you that spiritual-mindedness, which is life and peace. By these light aflictions, which endure but for a moment, he may work out for you a far more ezceeding and eternal weight of glory. For whom the Lord loveth he chastenelk, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.
There is another view of this subject which leads to the same conclusion. Your chastisements are, indeed, on account of your sins; but they bear no proportion to the guilt of those sins. He hath not dealt with you after your sins ; nor rewarded you after your iniquities. They are, therefore, corrective, and not penal ; sent for your profit, not for your destruction. They are manifestations of that love which will save you; not of that wrath which will consume you. You have judgment, it is true, but not without mercy; your cup is bitter, indeed, but not without consolation; he afflicts you, but he does not forsake you; he sustains you under all your trials. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivereth him out of them all. You may, therefore, view tribulation, as Paul did, as pouring forth the love of God into your heart, that is, furnishing 'clear and satisfactory proof of His love to you.
This conviction, founded as it is on scriptural evidence, is calculated to exert a transforming influence on the heart and life. It will warm the coldest hosom with love to God; for we love him, because he first loved us. This love in the heart will be a motive to cheerful obedience: for this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. It will suppress every rebellious feeling, silence every impatient murmur under the trials of life, and sustain and comfort you in the valley of the shadow of death; and finally raise you to that world, where there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain.
1. 'In the light of this subject, we see the reason, why so many instances of affliction fail to produce any good and lasting effect. They are not viewed in a proper light, nor received with a right spirit. By multitudes the agency of God is not acknowledged in them. They are traced back to the operation of natural causes, or of human agency, and no further; no divine hand is seen controlling these subordinate agencies. You might as soon expect the child to be benefited by correction, when its views extend no further than the rod, with which that correction is given, as that those can be benefited by afflictions, who do not acknowledge in them the hand of God. Such men, as it regards their afflictions, are ATHEISTS, without God in the world. Those who are determined to persevere in transgression, have no correct views of sin. In their own opinion, their guilt is too small to deserve any severe reprehension. In the hour of distress their spirits are disquieted, and break forth in impatient exclamations, which, like the groans and cries of irrational animals, are strong indications of pain and suffering, but have no other meaning. Afflictions do not answer the purpose of a mirror, reflecting on their view their own guilt. Such hearts resist the tendency of afflictions to do good. As