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present temptations, and the unsuspected evil of "Let us search, and try our ways,
and turn again to the Lord."
2. They are sent also to keep us near to Christ; that we may depend on Him alone; that we may love him more, setting our affections on things above, and longing to be with him for ever in heaven; where the children of God will be made entirely like their Heavenly Father; for there we shall see him as he is. Affliction is the furnace, in which the gold is purified: faith is made stronger, and love more pure and fervent, by means of this furnace.
3. Afflictions also are sent, to teach us to pity others. The afflicted child of God may say, "How many are there that have no Comforter, as I have; no Bible; no friendly Visitor; no knowledge of the Saviour living and dying without God, and without hope! Father of mercies, have pity on them! Show me, what can I do for them? Tell me what to speak to some of them! Teach me to pray for them all! I must not be so selfish, as to think only of my own sufferings. All the world is suffering around me: I know where peace may be found; multitudes know nothing of the way of peace. Oh, that I had more of the pitying mind of Christ!"
Now, these are the chief uses of sorrow: and there is also this use-Affliction sometimes is the first thing that brings us to God. And is not this a blessed use of our troubles? So the Psalmist says,
"Before I was afflicted, I went astray; but now have I kept thy word."
But you are weary: we will speak more of this another time. Enough has been said at present, I hope, to lead you to pray that your affliction may be blest to you, so that you may say, with the Psalmist, "It is good for me that I have been afflicted."
Wherefore should a living man complain, O Lord! a man, for the punishment of his sins? We acknowledge our transgressions: we desire to humble ourselves, and be sorry for our sins. But, blessed be thy Name! the condemnation of sin is tken away, Christ having become a curse for us. Grant, that, being reconciled unto thee, through Him, we may walk before thee as dear children; and receive all thy chastenings, as tokens of a Father's love. Work in our souls more humility, watchfulness, and dependence on thee. Hold us by thy hand continually, and keep us near to thee. Take away the remaining dross out of our hearts; and cause our faith and good works to shine before men, who see our tribulations, and our hope in Thee, to the glory of thy holy Name.
Endue us, also, with the tender and merciful spirit of Him, who came to visit this miserable world, and to give up his life a ransom for many. Cause us, like Jesus, to weep over sinners, who are far from thee. Pity all that are in misery; all prisoners and captives; all widows and orphans; the
stranger, and the outcast; the sick, and the dying. Have mercy, O Lord, upon the nations that are yet sitting in darkness, and in the shadow of death. : Send forth to them thy light and truth; and be evermore with thy faithful servants, who are gone preaching in distant lands the unsearchable riches of Christ. Deliver them from every temptation: comfort them in every affliction: strengthen them for their work: favour them with success; and finally crown them with the crown of glory, which fadeth not away.
We ask these mercies, for ourselves and others, in the name of our adorable Redeemer, Jesus Christ our Lord.
VISIT TO THE AFFLICTED. (Continued.)
How kindly does the Lord speak to his afflicted children, when he says, "My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: for whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth."
It is to be lamented, however, that even the children of God do not always lay fast hold of those comforts, which properly belong to them. When afflictions come upon them, they are seized with a sudden confusion: they do not at once perceive
that it is the gentle rod of their Father; and, by their distress, they show that they have forgotten the exhortation, which speaketh unto us as unto children.
It is also to be observed, that there are these two corruptions of our heart drawn out, and brought to view, by our afflictions. If the chastening be light, we are ready to despise it: we think we can bear it by ourselves, and that it is scarcely worth attending to: this is our pride. But when God strikes harder and harder, our spirit faints under his rebuke: this is our unbelief. First, we hold out against God, as long as we can; and next, when we can endure no longer, we murmur, faint, and sink into despondency.
Oh, what a thing is man! What a poor creature is even the best child of God, when he is for a moment forgetful of his Heavenly Father!
If, my friend, you know Christ as your Saviour, you will say, at the first approach of sorrow, "This affliction must not be lost upon me: it is for my profiting: at present it seems light: but I will bless the Lord for giving me warning." Then again, my friend, if you are suffering sorrow upon sorrow, but can look up to Christ as your compassionate Saviour and Comforter, you will pray, from the heart, "Let this affliction, most heavy as it is, press me nearer to Him whom my soul loveth! The eternal God is my refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms. Earthly joys are going away farther and farther: let heavenly consolations
abound! I would not have my troubles either fewer, or lighter, than God pleases: not because I think that they will take away my sins: Christ alone can do that. But, in the house of mourning, Jesus is more familiar, and friendly, and tender, in applying His promises to my soul. Here I see him, hear him, feel him present, and speak to him more nearly."
It would be most melancholy, to have no afflictions: if we had none, we might then doubt whether we were children of God; "for what son is he, whom the father chasteneth not."
Truly, it is one of the kindest things that a wise father can do for his son, to chasten him betimes: and children, that grow up in godliness, will thank their parents for correcting them when they were young; although, in some instances, they may have shown many infirmities, in their way of bringing
But our Heavenly Father, when he chastens us, does it with perfect love, and perfect wisdom. He is like a refiner, sitting by the furnace, purifying the gold. He raises the furnace to its proper heat: he will not consume the gold, but only purges out the dross. Can you not trust His wisdom, faithfulness, and love? O lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees! Think of those who have suffered the deepest afflictions before you, and yet the Lord hath delivered them out of all. "Take, wy brethren, the Prophets, who have spoken unto us in the name of the Lord, for an example of