« PreviousContinue »
afflictions with which it pleased God often to exercise their faith, are put down on the side of their mercies.
“ Who shall separate us from the love of Christ ?—shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us."*
But not only do the Christian's sorrows contribute, in the present state, to his joys—they tend also to the increase of his future glory. We presume not to understand all mysteries, and we shall, therefore, state the fact as we find it in the Scriptures. St. Paul, addressing the Corinthian church, makes reference to the trials which the apostles felt, and the tears they shed, in the execution of their mission, “For all things are for your sakes, that the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God. For which cause we faint not; but, though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.”+ This passage seems conclusively to establish the truth in question. “Blessed, therefore, indeed, are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.” Rejoice, then, ye afflicted Christians, “inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings, that when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad with exceeding joy."
This blessedness is something more than theory; it is solid and lasting Such a mourner as we have attempted to describe is an object of compassionate regard to our High Priest, “who is touched with the feeling of our infirmities.” One considerable part of his predicted office
* Rom. viii, 35-37.
+ 2 Cor. iv, 15-17
was “to bind up the broken hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn ; to appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorifed.”* In the solemn charge, given to the destroying angels, in the prophecy of Ezekiel, to slay utterly old and young, they are forbidden to come near those who mourn. Besides all this, the most encouraging promises of the Bible are given them, --" They that sow in tears, shall reap in joy. He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing bringing his sheaves with him.”+ The ministers of Christ have it in commission to offer consolation to such wounded spirits. “Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God; speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned; for she hath received at the Lord's hand double for all her sins.” | And what is more material still, the Divine Spirit is promised, under the character of a comforter, to hush their sorrows, and wipe away their tears. When he comes to the heart, testifying of the salvation of Christ, and applying the grace of the gospel, in its fulness to the soul, then he is enabled to magnify God, his Saviour ; to delight himself in the sacred fellowship of the saints ; and, believing, to “rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.” Such are some of the streams of his blessedness below; but what are these compared with the pleasures for evermore” which await him above? However it may go with him here, there is an house not
• Isaiah lxi. 1-3.
+ Ps. cxxvi. 5, 6.
# Isaiah xl. 1, 2.
made with hands—an holy and eternal habitation-prepared for him in heaven, into which no grief can enter, or sorrow dwell. There the days of his mourning will be ended, and all tears wiped from his eyes. “ The ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with songs
and everlasting joy upon their heads; they shall obtain joy and gladness; and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.'
III. LET US APPLY THE SUBJECT OF THIS BEATITUDE FOR OUR PERSONAL INSTRUCTION AND ADVANTAGE
First. Some of you mourn: then let me ask you, What is the character of your grief? Wherever there are sinful beings, there will be ample cause for lamentation : what, then, is the cause of your's? Ah! perhaps it does not make the least approach to that kind of sorrow which the Saviour has pronounced blessed! Your hopes have been disappointed; your schemes of enterprise have failed; some object of idolatrous attachment has been cut off; and from these sources of worldly affliction your tears flow, rather than from a sense of the dishonour done to God by your rebellion. If, however, this be the case, I must, in fidelity both to my office and to your interests, solemnly assure you, that your mourning comes not under the description in the text. And from hence it follows, that you cannot seek the comfort here promised to those persons whose repentance is of a godly sort. · Pray, then, my hearers, oh, pray earnestly, that the events in providence, which overwhelm your spirit, may be the means of the sanctification and salvation of your soul. .
Secondly. This subject must be viewed as a strong recommendation to the Christian religion. What is the experience of such as have shed the salutary tear of repentance, and who have suffered tribulation for Christ's sake? Let us hear a competent witness : “For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ."* Religion always indemnifies its real friends. If their sufferings are for Christ, they will also have comforts and consolations from him, proportioned to the measure of the affliction. This is more than the votaries of pleasure can affirm of their pursuits. Ignorant of the nature of personal religion, they charge it with gloom, and every thing unamiable; but, come hither, ye sons of dissipation and amusement, and answer this question -Who is the happiest of men? I submit it to your reason, and to your conscience, whether the Christian, who, although he may drink the bitter waters of Mara, regards the appointment as the salutary discipline of the best of parents, to prepare him for a purer state,-is not much happier in the depth of his adversity, than the individual who supposes the calamities he feels to be the miserable arrangement of necessity, and the inevitable consequence of his mortal existence? Tell me, whether is happier, the guilty sinner, who, conscious of unpardoned sin, and foreseeing the rapid approach of the king of terrors, either trembles through fear of the struggle, or hardens himself to meet the enemy with sullen insensibility ;-or the believer in Christ, who views death as a momentary evil, full of eternal blessings in the issue, and who welcomes its arrival as the harbinger of immortal glory? Oh! if the spirit that is in you might but speak, it would bear its solemn testimony against the vices ye indulge, and the scoffing ye make of serious piety. Ye may be more joyful for an hour or a day, when in the midst of your beloved sins ; but it is as the “ crackling of thorns,” or as “a dream when one awaketh.” tence is decisive, “Woe unto you that laugh now, for ye
* Isaiah xxxv. 10.
shall mourn and weep.” But surely it shall be well with the righteous; he“ hath hope in his death.”
Finally. To ye, who are called to tread in the steps of your Lord, and who have some good hope that you have mourned for sin, I would address a word of exhortation. It is a circumstance which loudly calls for your warmest gratitude, that you have been brought within the gracious commission of a compassionate Saviour. That your mind has been opened to receive the reviving and comforting influence of the spirit, is a distinguished privilege indeed. On you I would, therefore, press the duty of beholding, with the tenderest concern, the vast multitudes around you, ready to perish in their sins. Stretch forth the hand of pity, I beseech you, and endeavour to turn them from the error of their ways, to the wisdom of the just. In their dangerous situation you had been, but for the Lord's mercy towards you. And what a powerful consideration is this, to induce you, who have received so freely, to give plentifully of your abundance to the poor and needy. And ye Christian parents, strive to promote this holy grief in your children. I fear many mere professors are very inconsistent in this respect! They would rather see their sons and daughters trifling in the most humiliating scenes of folly, than behold them retiring from the crowd, as the stricken deer from the herd, to mourn and bleed alone. Surely this cannot be the compassion of the gospel ; no it is impiety itself. May I hope better things of your religion. And, in the close, let me exhort you, in every case, both personal and relative, not to forget, that he only who wounds can heal; and that no individual is beyond the power of his grace, or the reach of his pity. Hear, therefore, his most gracious invitation, and thankfully embrace it. “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth, for I am God, and there is none else.” * Amen.
Isaiah xlv. 22.