« PreviousContinue »
Truly, the condition of but one awakened spirit, however disregarded among mortals, is an object of unspeakable interest in heaven. Angels view it, with affectionate solicitude; God himself, with infinitely more than parental commiseration. Enter, then, my brethren, enter, for a few moments, into the house of mourning. Behold that unhappy female ; she once, like many here, was gay and cheerful, full of hope, and full of promise; unsuspicious of the snares, and the delusions of merciless man,—but too often countenanced, and supported, by a merciless world. Examine that heart. It may prove a salutary lesson. What a tumult of thought and feeling. What recollections of happier days! What horror of the present ! The days of innocence and purity; the simple pleasures of childhood; the early lessons of a tender and religious parent; the first time, when the idea of God and heaven were pleasant to the soul; the earliest workings of that vanity, which was the source of all that unhappily ensued ; that dreadful day, when peace, and self-respect, and purity of conscience, departed, like the guardian spirits of God's own desecrated Temple, departed, and never since, for a single moment, revisited that ruined and degraded mind; the complicated miseries, that followed; the dreadful consciousness, of being without a friend, in
earth or heaven; the anticipated horrors of a future judgment; the present hell, of a perturbed, an accusing, an avenging conscience ; all, with compacted force, and with intolerable conviction, flash upon the mind, and heart; all fire the brain, almost to madness and despair. But, even now, the moment of deliverance is at hand; even now, the clouds disperse ; even now, the light of heaven is distinguished through the gloom; the sinner is become a penitent; the wanderer into a far country, is given to behold, her native home ; she feels, that God is still the Father of mercies ; that “ Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners;" and, though she dares not “ so much as lift up her eyes unto heaven,” and though she cannot give utterance to feelings, which words never could convey, —that “ still small voice” is audible to God: “ How many hired servants of my Father, have bread enough, and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise, and go unto my Father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy child : make me as one of thy hired servants !"
BUT SIMON'S WIFE'S MOTHER LAY SICK OF A FEVER; AND
ANON THEY TELL HIM OF HER; AND HE CAME, AND TOOK HER BY THE HAND, AND LIFTED HER UP; AND IMMEDIATELY THE FEVER LEFT HER, AND SHE MINISTERED UNTO THEM.
WE learn from the volume of inspiration, that man was originally formed with the two great capacities, of happiness and immortality. But, when, by ceasing to be good, he failed to be happy, it was ordained, not more in judgment, than in mercy, that, in this life, he should not be immortal. To a sinful race, eternity of days would have been eternity of wretchedness ; while death and disease, the wages and chastisement of sin, were graciously converted into
* Preached in Dublin, for the Whitworth Fever-Hospital, 1819.
means of restoration. The frequency of disease, acting as the remembrancer of mortality; and the certainty of death, enjoining us to prepare for an untried, unseen, and everlasting world.
But disease is more than the remembrancer of death. She brings the sufferer back, to the healing presence of his Maker ; to that happiness, even in this life, for which he was originally designed. But who can estimate the full value of this sacred office? They alone can do so, who cultivate religion as their first and great concern. And how few there are, who thus cultivate religion? There is, however, a solid, though inferior benefit, respecting which we may appeal, to every man of sound judgment, and of a sober mind. For, if all were to luxuriate, in the exuberance of health ; if there were no disease, to quell the mad intemperance of some, and stimulate the morbid indolence of others; if the disorders of the moral system, were not occasionally corrected, by the disorders of the physical; what would this world be, or where would God find a place in it? A few superior spirits might, perhaps, escape the general contagion. But the mind recoils, at the bare imagination of those horrors, which, in such a state of things, would pervade the great fabric of society. On the contrary, let us look
around, each in the sphere of our several connections, and let us pronounce, how much awakened thought, how much conscientious feeling, how much patience under suffering, how much moderation in prosperity, we know and feel, to have been, directly, or indirectly, produced by the salutary visitations of disease. And, though, in too many instances, these good impressions have been transitory, it cannot be denied that the accumulated effects upon society, are both permanent, and beneficial, while, in several individuals, these favourable commencements are gradually ripening into fruits of happiness and peace.
The mercy of God, in thus consecrating the misery of man, was peculiarly displayed, when He was manifested in our flesh. While sojourning among us, He so met, and so relieved, the corporal sufferings of those who sought his aid, as to attract them, almost irresistibly, to himself. By the instant removal of inveterate disease, He repeatedly proved himself Lord of material nature ; while, by the gracious and winning condescension of his manner, He invariably showed himself Master of the human heart. In every act of this kind, his moral goodness mitigates, if we may so speak, the majesty of his physical power. In reading the record of his mighty