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reason to indulge the belief, that we possess a personal interest in the blessings of religion! How should our hearts burn within us, if we can discern in our views, our feelings, and our conduct, any evidence-even the slightest, of the Spirits operation !
But it is not our present purpose to enlarge upon the fact, that we have all received good at the hand of God. We would rather direct your attention to the truth inculcated in the text, that those for whom Jehovah has done so much, have no right to complain of the occasional adverse circumstances which he permits to befall them. It is well known that men in general become impatient, and manifest a disposition to repine, when Providence visits them with affliction. They forget, in the hour of adversity, all the comforts and blessings which Heaven had previously conferred upon them. They think only of the calamity which they are called to endure, and feel and act as if their whole career on earth had been one continuous series of misfortunes. Now, such conduct as this is highly culpable. It betrays ingratitude to the Most High for past favours, and an unwillingness to confide in him as respects the future. It indicates too surely the absence of that humble and devout frame of mind, which prompted the just and pious sentiment of our text, “ Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil ?"
The present life, though abounding with many advantages and enjoyments, has also its share of difficulties and
In one sense, “ man is born to trouble, as the sparks fly upward.” Many and various are the aflictions to which he is subject. Disappointments, vexations, and trials, may come upon him from a thousand sources. To loss of property, and loss of health, he is continually exposed. And then the messenger of death may invade
his family circle, break asunder the nearest ties of attachment, terminate relations which have long subsisted, and fill his heart with unutterable grief.
No man, then, whatever may be his moral character, can calculate on passing through the world, without affliction of some kind. The Christian must not expect to escape the evils which Heaven, for wise and benevolent purposes, has rendered inseparable from the lot of humanity here below. Religion promises to her votaries no such boon as exemption from temporal calamities. Indeed, the reverse would rather seem to be promised, for the Saviour on a certain occasion said to his disciples, 6 In the world ye shall have tribulation;" and in another passage of the New Testament, we read that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.”
But although the Christian is not to calculate on exemption from affliction, yet he may hope, with the blessing and the aid of Heaven, to endure it with humble and devout submission to the divine will, and thus to render it a source of real and lasting good to his soul. He remembers that he has received many blessings from Jehovah, and he feels that it would be ungrateful in the extreme to murmur on account of providential dispensations, which, however gloomy and painful, are ordered in infinite wisdom, and may contribute largely to his ultimate happiness :
“Good, when he gives, supremely good,
Nor less when he denies;
Are blessings in disguise.” He reviews the past mercies of God, and particularly those of a spiritual nature. He deems the pardon of his sins, which he trusts that he has obtained through the merits of his Redeemer, a bounty sufficient to make amends for any temporary evils which may befall him during his stay in this world. He thinks of the precious seasons of religious comfort and enjoyment with which he has been blessed-seasons in which the light of Jehovah's countenance has been lifted upon him, and be has read with the eye of faith, a clear title to the mansions of eternal peace and bliss. As he looks back to such periods, he communes with his spirit in language like the following:-Can it be, that God who has dealt so mercifully with my soul in days that are past, will now forget to be gracious ? Is it possible, that he who once inspired my heart with the hope of pardoned sin, and encouraged me to cherish the expectation of dwelling with him for ever, will desert me in this hour of trial and of need?. Surely not. I remember his promise not to leave nor forsake me, and this shall be my stay. Here will I set up my Ebenezer. Hitherto hath the Lord helped me. His compassions cannot fail. The affliction which has come upon me is the doing of a parental Deity, who best knows what is calculated to subserve the real interests of his children. It becomes me, then, to bear with meekness and resignation whatever he thinks proper to inflict. I must not forget that passage of his own word—“ Behold, happy is the man whom God correcteth; therefore, despise not thou the chastening of the Almighty. For he maketh sore, and bindeth_up; he woundeth, and his hands make whole. He shall deliver thee in six troubles; yea, in seven there shall no evil touch thee.”
Let us now briefly advert to one or two of those sources of consolation, which the gospel presents to the Christian in the season of bereavement and distress. We have already seen how the recollection of the good which he has received at the hand of God, conduces to - reconcile him to the endurance of the occasional evils which he may experience. There are likewise other considerations of a similar tendency.
Thus the contemplation of the divine sovereignty is calculated to have the effect of which we speak. The Christian knows that the universe, with all its interests and all its concerns, is under the absolute control of Jehovah. He does not imagine that the Deity resides at a vast distance from our world, an indifferent and a passive spectator of human affairs. An idea so preposterous as this, his mind cannot harbour. The Scriptures teach him, that nothing can happen without the agency, or, at least, without the knowledge and permission of the Most High. He therefore sees, that to repine at the dispensations of Providence, is virtually to rebel against God. It is to say to him, What doest thou? It is nothing less than to deny that he is entitled to govern his own universe as he pleases.
Again, the Christian is led to acquiesce in the afflictive dispensations of Providence, when he thinks of his own sins. He knows how greatly he has offended against the divine Majesty: he is sensible that he has broken, in numberless instances, the precepts of Jehovah's pure and perfect law. He therefore feels, that no temporal calamities with which his lot may be embittered, can exceed the punishment to which, by his mal-conduct, he has rendered himself justly obnoxious. In fact, he is conscious that he has merited at the hand of his Maker, nothing short of indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish. And how, under such circumstances, can be properly complain of the afflictions with which he is visited? What right has he to murmur, when he is compelled to admit that he deserves in strictness a larger and heavier portion of adversity than he receives ? Instead
of repining, he discerns that he has, in reality, cause for thankfulness and joy, that judgment has not been laid to the line, nor righteousness to the plummet. He acknowledges, that it is of the Lord's mercy, that he has not been consumed—that he has not been dealt with according to his deserts.
Further, the Christian is enabled to submit with meekness and resignation to the divine will, in periods of bereavement and distress, by reflecting, that the present is a state of discipline, in which good men are tried and rendered fit for a condition of perfect and enduring happi
The afflictions which they experience, are represented in the sacred Scriptures as working out for them an exceeding and eternal weight of glory. They are in the hands of a God who understands their character and knows their wants much better than they do themselves. He calculates the precise quantity of sorrow, if we may so speak, which will be necessary to qualify them for the reception and enjoyment of the amount of bliss, which it iş his pleasure to confer upon them. In one word, he afflicts them as much as is requisite for their good, and no more. How consolatory is this thought to the believer! and especially when he considers, what we are persuaded the word of God warrants, that those who suffer most here, will, in general, partake of the largest share of happiness hereafter. Yes, it may be presumed, that the highest and brightest seats in heaven will be awarded to those who come out of great tribulation, and wash their robes and make them white in the blood of the Lamb.
And hence we are led to remark, in the last place, that the Christian is enabled to submit with meekness and resignation to the divine will in periods of affliction, by cherishing an habitual anticipation of the honour and felicity which are to be his final portion. He knows,