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sorrow. More or less in the present life, from infancy to
Now the springs of this grief are numerous and diversified. There is a worldly sorrow, which, according to Scripture, "worketh death." Some are mourning for the untimely death of an only child, and others under the bitter afflictions into which the palpable misconduct of a living one has plunged them. Some are bowed down by oppression, and looking forward, with a strong desire, to the repose of the grave, "where the wicked cease from troubling, and where the weary are at rest;" and others are writhing beneath accumulated disappointments, the results of their own imprudence, or the cruelty of a treacherous friend. In these cases, grief is frequently excessive, and overflows the bounds both of reason and religion. When any object is removed in which the heart delighted,— when any scheme is frustrated, upon the accomplishment of which the mind was fixed,-when the idol of the affections is in mercy taken away,—we are apt to grieve, as if the Father of mercies, and the God of all consolation, had left us nothing to enjoy. But this is sinful. It is the murmuring of discontent; it is the vexation of wounded pride; it is not the mourning of the text.
To these kinds of sorrow, many more might be added. Some persons are naturally gloomy and sad; others mourn under the pains and misery which their often-repeated crimes have collected upon them, and from the pressure of which the prospect of deliverance is at present far distant. Thus, the drunkard sometimes mourns under the
ruinous effects of his intemperance; the libertine under the disgrace of scandalous vices; and the thief, when brought to justice, for the commission of theft and plunder. But neither the grief of the one or the other of these individuals, is that which the text specifies. If sorrow arise merely from the wretchedness into which a course of sinning has brought us, and not from a sense of dishonour done to God, it is not the mourning which is blessed. Of this kind was the spurious repentance of Ahab, who humbled himself when he heard sentence denounced upon him for his iniquities, but, because judgment "against his evil works was not executed speedily, his wicked heart was fully set in him to do evil." Of the same description was the grief of Judas, which ended in despair, and self-destruction. In fine, persons in this state, beneath a load of guilt, having no hope in the world, and ignorant of the refuge which the mercy of God has provided for the miserable, are frequently driven away in their wickedness, and perish by their own hand.
Having thus briefly cleared some of the grounds on which we are liable to mistake in this matter, the way becomes more obvious and easy. In opposition to all these causes and kinds of grief to which I have referred, the mourning here intended is that which arises from the due consideration of our sins, as having been committed against an holy God. Such was the godly sorrow of David, when he said, "Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest."* Let us also turn to another instance of the same kind in the woman who "was a sinner," and whose conversion is briefly related by St. Luke. She had heard the glad tidings of salvation which the Saviour
Ps. li. 4.
had been proclaiming in the lanes and highways, and her heart was melted by the joyful intelligence; she, therefore, entered the house of Simon, the Pharisee, where the Redeemer sat at meat, that she might bathe those blessed feet with her tears, which had brought her the heavenly news, and wipe them with the hairs of her head.* We have a third instance of the same mourning in the case of Peter, who, when his Lord looked on him, after his cruel denial, "went out and wept bitterly." And such was the sorrow of the Corinthians, to which the Apostle alludes;-" For behold this selfsame thing, that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you, yea, what clearing of yourselves, yea, what indignation, yea, what fear, yea, what vehement desire, yea, what zeal, yea, what revenge! in all things ye have approved yourselves to be clear in this matter."+ But there is another cause of mourning which the generous spirit of the Christian feels-I refer to the sins of others, which deeply affect his heart. Thus saith the pious king of Israel; "I beheld the transgressors, and was grieved. Rivers of water run down mine eyes, because men keep not thy law." Such, too, was the lamentation of Jeremiah ;-"Oh that my head were waters, and mine eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night, for the slain of the daughter of my people! Oh that I had in the wilderness a lodging place of wayfaring men; that I might leave my people, and go from them! for they be all adulterers, an assembly of treacherous men." But the most perfect illustration of this holy sorrow, is seen in our Lord himself." And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it, saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace!"§ This was
• Luke vii. +2 Cor. vii. 11.
Jer. ix. 1, 2. Luke xix. 41, 42.
genuine philanthropy,-it was true patriotism. And such a tender concern for the present welfare and immortal interest of mankind, is the best proof of attachment which you can give to your country, and the strongest evidence of your love to Him who redeemed you with his blood.
There are also many other sources of this mourning, of which I cannot now speak particularly. The Christian has a deep consciousness of the imperfection of all his attainments; a powerful sense of ingratitude towards the God of his mercy, and the Saviour of his soul; and also of his unlikeness to him, to whose image he must be conformed. In addition to this, the distractions of the church, and the small spread of gospel light, concur to affect his spirit. He is, therefore, often, according to the remark of St. Peter, “in heaviness, through manifold temptations.”
By this time, however, it is probable, that some of you begin to imagine the men of the world far more happy than Christians; but the serious consideration of the following part of the subject will be quite sufficient to correct this mistake. Let us therefore proceed to notice,
II. THE PROMISE WHICH OUR LORD GIVES TO SUCH MOURNERS AS THE TEXT DESCRIBES.
It is said, for their encouragement and consolation, that "they shall be comforted."
There is something, my brethren, in this sentiment, that must sound extravagant to a superficial and thoughtless hearer. For sorrow to be felicity-for the mourner to be happy-and for his happiness to arise even from his sorrow-is a paradox indeed. Some stoics, of the heathen school, taught the theory, that pain, in itself, was a thing of indifference, neither good or bad, and that a wise man might be happy in the most unfavourable circumstances. But the doctrine of the text goes much farther than this;it teaches us not only that a mourner may be happy, but
that, if he be a Christian, his very sorrows contribute to make him so. "Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted."
Now, rightly to understand this divine truth, we must consider the fact here implied; namely, that the comfort wherewith the mourner is comforted, consists in something more than mere support under his burdens. It is a surplus of peace and joy, over and above the measure of his grief. It would be pleasant indeed for the soldier always to have succour equal to his necessity, and strength according to his conflict; but that does not amount to the fulness of this promise. The idea which it conveys, and which I shall endeavour to illustrate, is this, that the consolations of the Christian far surpass his sorrows; and that his bitterest afflictions, under the divine blessing, conduce to swell the magnitude of his triumphs.
To assure ourselves that this representation is true, we will have recourse to the testimony of Scripture. Here we find its pages declare, that the individual sufferings of the servants of Christ, not only tended to qualify them for the discharge of the high duties with which they were intrusted, but also to augment both their present and their future happiness. Of this truth we have ample confirmation in the Epistles. Take the evidence of St. Paul: “And not only so, but we glory in tribulation also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope; and hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us." Hence, it appears, that the prospect of future happiness was not the only cause of their joy. They rejoiced "in hope of the glory of God," but they likewise "took pleasure in their sufferings for Christ's sake,” because these sufferings were sanctified to the good of their souls. In the same Epistle, both the bitter injuries they received from the world, and the severe