God and virtue, and of the heroic sufferer, to whom God and virtue were all, and the suffering of such a moment nothing *."



The close and inseparable connexion between sin and suffering, so forcibly illustrated by the experience of mankind, is such as strikes the most heedless observer ; and renders it obvious that the path which self-love, influenced by a regard to personal happiness, prescribes, is the same as that which a sense of duty enjoins. Notwithstanding what a few speculative men may allege to the contrary, while they amuse or exercise their powers in tracing nearly all natural evil to the necessity of general laws, producing occasional inconvenience, but securing a preponderating good, or to the inevitable imperfection of matter; we know from the statements of revelation, as well as from the justice and benevolence of God, that wherever suffering exists in the dominions of Him whose power and goodness are infinite, it exists as the consequence and as the punishment of sin.

There is, it is true, considerable inequality in the retributions of providence in the present state,-an inequality which illustrates the patience and goodness

* Brown's Lectures on the Phil. of the Human Mind, vol. iv. p. 127-1.


of God, and which is designed to teach us that he has appointed a day in which he will judge the world in righteousness, and render unto every man according to his works. From this inequality, and from the economy of mercy under which we are placed, we learn the danger of rashly interpreting the dispensations of God to man; and the impropriety no less of saying concerning him who is peculiarly tried, that he is eminently guilty, than of pronouncing him who is prosperous to be distinguished for piety and righteous

While all suffering proceeds from sin, suffering is now employed by the Mediator, and under the constitution of grace, for attaining various moral uses; and is intended as trial and chastisement, and the means of maturing the graces and virtues which will fit man for the society of angels and of just men made perfect. Yet, we ought to be well convinced that misery in any and in every form, is occasioned by disobedience to the will of God,-and that the state of suffering into which the original apostasy brought mankind, is greatly aggravated by our own actual transgression. Perhaps we do not remember so practically as we ought, that we live at present under a dispensation of retributive justice, though mingled with mercy ; that though in many cases there may seem to be one event to the righteous and the wicked, the equality is more in appearance than in reality; and that if our views of the Divine government were sufficiently extended, we should have ample grounds for believing that the connexion now existing between sin and its punishment, and obe dience and its reward, is so great as to be a near

approach to uniformity. This uniformity is not complete and invariable, only because many of the penal consequences of sin are for a season at least suspended; but it is sufficiently so to convince us, that sin never fails to find out the sinner; and that in doing a sinful action, or in indulging an evil disposition, we are preparing sorrow for ourselves, and are treasuring up wrath against the day of wrath. We do not learn from the procedure of Providence toward mankind the lesson which it is designed to teach us, unless we are more thoroughly convinced of the important truth, that suffering and death are the natural and the necessary effects of sin. Suppose ye that those Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices, were sinners above all the Galileans, because they suffered such things ? I tell you nay; but except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. Or, those eighteen upon whom the tower in Siloam fell, and slew them, think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you nay; but except ye repent, ye

shall all likewise perish."

Section 1.-The Terms defined.

What is meant by a natural and necessary connexion between sin and suffering, and what are the grounds on which this connexion is founded ? Far as our observation extends, through every kingdom of nature, amidst an endless variety, we see that all things exist according to a certain order. The promised revolutions of the seasons, the seed-time and

harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, take place in a regular succession ; and in consequence of this regularity we readily believe that the same laws of nature whose effects are uniform in Europe, operate in the same way in every part of the globe. Though the constitution by which events are thus conjoined must, as the appointment of infinite wisdom, rest on the best possible grounds, we can conceive it reversed, so as to present the same events to us in a very different order. The same remark applies to the rites and ceremonies of the Mosaic economy, and to all institutions merely positive, which however excellent on account of the ends which they subserve, and however binding on the conscience as enjoined by God, might, without any contradiction, be conceived otherwise. But there are certain other things united together, whose disjunction we cannot conceive possible. It is impossible that the blessed God should relinquish any attribute of his nature ; or that his law should be otherwise than holy, and just, and good ; or that any creature should ever become independent of him, or be absolved from the duty of loving and obeying him. In like manner is it im. possible that any being formed in his likeness, and with capacities for enjoyment that can only be filled by his blissful favour and presence, should be happy after it has apostatized from God, and has ceased to have access to the fountain of living waters. Does not misery follow disobedience to God, and the voluntary withdrawment of the heart from him, as a natural and necessary consequence; and is it possible for the sinner by any mere enactment of power, of

[merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors]

by any means whatever, while he continues a rebel against God, to escape this consequence ?

It is true, we do not see in the present life all the misery that necessarily follows the commission of sin, because mankind are placed under a mediatorial economy, and because of the patience and forbearance of Him who maketh his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and who sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. But we know that the animal and intellectual enjoyments with which mankind in their apostate state content themselves, are fleeting; that the capacity for deriving any share of happiness from them decays with the decay of life; and that even at the time when this capacity is unimpaired, and those enjoyments most abound, one such view of the holiness and perfection of the eternal God as would allow the light of truth to strike upon the conscience, would in a moment dissolve the charm, and convert into wormwood and gall all the streams of earthly enjoyment. This awful disclosure must take place at death, when the sinner will find himself surrounded with the perfections of that great and holy Lord God, of whose character and government, till then, he has been willingly ignorant, blazing for ever around him in the demonstration of their avenging justice, and awakening within him a worm that will never die, and a fire that will never be quenched :-in an eternity so full of the manifest presence of God, that he cannot for a moment flee from him, that he cannot cease to think about him, that God cannot in all the glory of his character but be fully known to him, and in an eternity

« ElőzőTovább »