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ful dispensation of Providence, whereby he is willing to draw men nearer unto him ; fixing his eye at the same time upon his beloved Redeemer, “ the Captain of his salvation," who was himself made“
perfect by sufferings 6 ;" and convinced by the word of truth, that however grievous chastening may appear for the present, nevertheless it afterwards yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby":"—he, who thus reflects upon himself and the things about him, labours to subdue the weakness and irritability of the natural man, and to submit with holy resignation to the “ correction of the Father of Spirits.” “ It is the Lord ;" he exclaims with the venerable
66 let him do what seemeth him good'.” “ Shall we receive good at the hand of God,” he demands with the patient Job, " and shall we not receive evilk?” “ For this cause," he exultingly replies with the holy Paul, “ we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For
h Heb. xii. 11.
i 1 Sam. iii. 18.
s Heb. ii. 10. k Job ii. 10.
our light affliction, which is but for å moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.”
6. AMiction is moreover good for us, because it improves our Charity. In the vigour of health and strength, amid the glow of brisk animal spirits, in the full tide of pleasure and prosperity, we are apt to be inattentive to the voice and pleadings of distress. In the pride of fancied virtue and integrity, we are apt to think unfavourably of the excellencies, and to be severe in estimating the failings, of others. With a jealous attachment to our own dignity and independence, and a nice sensibility to an injury or an affront, we are apt to be quick in conceiving resentment, and slow in laying it aside. But Affliction corrects and mitigates the judgment; it softens and enlarges the heart. Do we feel ourselves sinking under “ a sore burden too heavy for us to bear;" and can we refuse our sympathy to those who are our partners and fellows in distress? Do we with a con. trite sense of our own unworthiness implore
1 2 Cor. iv, 16, 17.
the Almighty not to “ enter into judgment with us ;” and can we presume to be severe in passing judgment upon another? Do we with unfeigned sorrow for our sinfulness, beseech our heavenly Father to
forgive us our trespasses ;” and can we, on the very threshold, as it were, of earth, and now drawing nigh to the footstool of the throne of grace, withhold our forgiveness from them“ who trespass against us?" Can we refuse to “ have mercy on our brother,” even as we trust that “our heavenly Father will have pity on us ?”
Thus does Afiction appear to be the Guide to Reflection ; the Teacher of Humility; the Parent of Repentance; the Nurse of Faith; the Strengthener of Patience; and the Promoter of Charity : while of those, upon whom Affliction is thus sanctified to the purifying of the soul and its improvement in Christian graces ; of those, who study to convert it with the blessing of their merciful Father to their spiritual and eternal welfare, that they
may become partakers of his holiness :" of those, who welcome it as the mean,
whereby they “ may learn the statutes" of the Lord; of such
may be truly affirmed, as the royal Psalmist acknowledged of himself, that “it is good for them to be afflicted."
Valuable however as affliction is, it is a season, for which it would be extreme folly and presumption in us to wait ; and so to put off our improvement in Christian virtues until the time of its arrival. It is good for those who are afflicted, that“ they learn the statutes of the Lord, and become partakers of his holiness ;' but it is better that we learn those statutes and obey them, that we follow after that holiness and practise it, before the day of affliction arrives. There are many considerations, which should induce us to profit by “ the riches, of God's goodness, and forbearance, and long-suffering," " while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh when we shall say, we have no pleasure in them; or ever the silver cord be loosed, or the golden bowl be broken, or the pitcher be broken at the foun, tain, or the wheel broken at the cistern",
m Eccl. xii. 1, 6.
of fear may
When affliction comes upon us, may
be too late for us to profit by it. It may come, when our heart is “hardened already by the deceitfulness of sin ",” and is no more open to repentance. It may fall upon us hastily and unawares ; come as desolation, and our destruction as a whirlwindo,” and may sweep us away from “ the land of the living,” and out of the place of hope ; and then, though we may wish to “ call upon the Lord, yet he will not answer;" though we may him early, yet we shall not find him.” If it come with a less hasty pace, still it may come with such severity of bodily torment, as may prevent us from duly feeling for the danger of our soul. If it leave our body comparatively at ease,
seize on our understanding, and drive us to insensibility or distraction.
But let it come under its most favourable form, and leave us leisure and opportunity and inclination to open our eyes upon the danger that þesets us; still those better resolutions, which after a long career of vice or
n Heb. iii. 13.
• Prov. i. 27.