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SERMON XXIX.

THE USES OF AFFLICTION,

PSALM cxix. 71. It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that

I might learn thy statutes.

IT is good for me that I have been afflicted !” This is not the language of nature; this is not the language of the world. Nature impels us, and the world teaches us, to consider affliction as an evil, and to fly and escape from it accordingly : and that for an obvious reason; because affliction is not adapted to gratify our natural desires and inclinations, or to promote our interest and prosperity in the world. Religion, looking upon us as spiritual beings, as consisting of soul no less than of body, as intended to live in another state as well as in this, forms its estimate of the value of things, by the tendency which they have to promote our spiritual and eternal welfare. It prompts us therefore to look to the other side of the picture. It does not tell us, that affliction is not an evil ; for that were only to mock and deride us in our sufferings : but it tells us, how it may be converted into a good. “It is good for me that I have been afflicted,” says the royal Psalmist, who spoke not from a frigid and unfeeling observation on the condition of others, but from a lively experience of his

“ it is good for me that I have been afflicted,” and why? because it has been the means of leading me to “ learn thy statutes,” O Lord ! because it has been the means of leading me to a knowledge of thy will; because it has taught me to “ commune with my own heart," and to discover the weakness and wickedness of it; because it has taught me to become acquainted with Thee; because it has taught me to “ acknowledge my transgressions and to be sorry for my sins ;” because it has been the means, whereby thou, O God, hast“ created in me a clean heart, and renewed a right spirit

own :

within me.” « Before I was afflicted I went astray; but now have I kept thy word :" and therefore “ it is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I might learn thy statutes.”

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But not only is affliction capable of being converted into good; religion instructs us, that for that very purpose it is sent upon us. The Gospel accordingly represents almighty God, in whose hand are “ the issues of life," and who dispenses health and sickness at his pleasure, in the light of a tender and affectionate Father,

loving those whom he chasteneth, and scourging every son whom he receiveth; correcting us, not like the fathers of our flesh, after his own pleasure, but for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holinessa." Let us consider some of the ways, wherein affliction frequently does act, and wherein under proper regulation it always ought to act; and we shall be induced to agree with the royal Psalmist and the holy Apostle ; to acknowledge

a Heb. xii. 6, 9.

with the latter the mercy and loving-kindness of God in “ correcting" us ; and to confess with the former, that “it is good for us to be afflicted."

1st. AMiction is good, inasmuch as it affords opportunity for Reflection, without which we can never properly know, what we are or what we want. But necessary as Reflection is, in order to make us acquainted with our spiritual concerns, it is seldom that we have leisure, if we have the inclination, to engage in it. In the hurry of business or of pleasure, good impressions are not easily made upon our hearts; or, if made, are not easily retained. If we “ hear the word, we go forth; and the care of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful.” But when affliction removes us from the anxious and fascinating scenes of active life; when it diminishes our interest in the world by secluding us from its presence; when it closes our eyes upon thé bustle, and our ears upon the tumult, of business and pleasure ; we have then less to withdraw our attention from our spiri

tual state, and to prevent us from “ communing with our own hearts in our chamber, and being still.” Meditation is no unimportant branch of a Christian's duty; and the bed of sickness, or the chamber of affliction, is no inconvenient place, wherein to practise it. Many are the minutes, the hours, the days, the weeks, wherein, as the body is deprived of its vigour, the soul is the only part capable of exertion. hold now is the accepted time! now is the day of salvation”!” Happy is that person, whose thoughts can now be directed into their proper channel; and who can be made an example of the saying of the Preacher, that “the heart of the wise is in the house of mourning.”

6. Be

2ndly. Affliction is good, as it tends to create in us Humility. Take a man from among

the healthy and the strong: exulting in his prowess, proud of his independence, self-confident, and self-sufficient; he speaks and acts, as if he “ lived and moved and had his being" from no power superior

b 2 Cor. vi. 2.

Eccl. vii. 4.

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