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prudence- had brought the wisdom, or at punishment, he might be led by repentance least the expediency of the cause into suspi- to avoid it. Can you reckon the blinding cion, and it is at last carried by a means fo- the eyes and the hardening his heart, any reign to itself. The character of the cause part of his happiness? This opinion, howmust be lowered, we had almost said, it ever, you practicallv adopt, whenever you must in a certain degree be deteriorated, togrudge the propensity of the wicked. God, suit the general taste, even to obtain the ap- by delaying the punishment of bad men, for probation of that multitude for whose bene- which we are so impatient, may have defit it is intended.
signs of mercy of which we know nothing; How long, as we have had occasion to ob-1-mercy perhaps to them, or if not to them, serve in another connexion, had the world yet mercy to those who are suffering by groaned under the most tremendous engine them, and whom he intends by these badinwhich superstition and despotism, in dread- struments to punish, and by punishing, ful confederation, ever contrived to force eventually to save, the consciences, and torture the bodies of There is another sentiment which prosmen; where racks were used for persua-perous wickedness excites in certain minds; sion, and flames for arguments! The best that is almost more preposterous than envy of men for ages have been mourning under itself, -and that is respect; but this feeling this dread tribunal, without being compe- is never raised unless both the wickedness tent to effect its overthrow; the worst of and the prosperity be on a grand scale, men have been able to accomplish it with a This sentiment also is founded in secret word.-It is a humiliating lesson for good impiety, in the belief either that God does men, when they thus see how entirely in- not govern human affairs, or that the mostrumentality may be separated from per- tives of action are not regarded by him, or sonal virtue.
that prosperity is a certain proof of his faWe still fall into the error of which the vour, or that where there is success there prophet so long ago complained, 'we call must be worth. These flatterers however the proud happy,'and the wicked fortunate, forsake the prosperous with their good forand our hearts are too apt to rise at their tune; their applause is withheld with the successes. We pretend indeed that they success which attracted it. As they were rise with indignation; but is it not to be fear- governed by events in their admiration, so ed that with this indignation is mixed a little events lead them to withdraw it. envy, a little rebellion against God? We But in this admiration there is a bad taste murmur, though we know that when the as well as a bad principle,. If ever wickinstrument has finished his work, the divine edness pretends to excite any idea of subliemployer throws him by, cuts him off, lets mity, it must be, not in its elevation but its him perish,
fall. If ever Caius Marius raises any such But you envy him in the midst of that sentiment, it is not when he carried the work, to accomplish which he has sacrificed world before him, it is not in his seditious every principle of justice, truth, and mercy. and bloody triumphs at Rome, but it is when Is this a man to be envied ? Is this a pros- in poverty and exile his intrepid look perity to be grudged? Would you incur caused the dagger to drop from the hand of the penalties of that happiness at which the executioner ;-it is when sitting among you are not ashamed to murmur?
the venerable ruins of Carthage he enjoined But is it happiness to commit sin, to be ab-a desolation so congenial to his own-Dionihorred by good men, to offend God, to ruinsius, in the plenitude of arbitrary power, his own soul ? Do you really consider a raises our unmixed abhorrence, We de temporary success a recompence for deeds test the oppressor of the people while he which will ensure eternal wo to the perpe- continued to trample on them, we execrate trator? Is the successful bad man happy? (the monster who was not ashamed to sell Of what materials then is happiness made Plato as a slave, If ever we feel any thing up? Is it composed of a disturbed mind | like interest on this subject, it is not with the and an unquiet conscience? Are doubt and tyrant of Syracuse but with the school-Inas difficulty, are terror and apprehension, are ter of Corinth. distrust and suspicion, felicities for which al But though God may be patient with triChristian would renounce his peace, would umphant wickedness, he does not wink or displease his Maker, would risk his soul?- connive at it, Between being permitted and Think of the hidden vulture that feeds on supported, between being employed and apthe vitals of successful wickedness, and your proved, the distance is wider than we are repinings, your envy, if you are so unhappy ready to acknowledge, Perhaps the iniqui as to feel envy, will cease. Your indigna-Ity of the Amorites is not yet fuil,' God has tion will be converted into compassion, your always the means of punishment as well as execrations into prayer.
of pardon in his own hands. But to punish But if he feel neither the scourge of con- just at the moment when we would hüri ter science nor the sting of remorse, pity him bolt, might break in on a scheme of Prost the more. Pity him for the very want of dence of wide extent and indefinite conse that addition to his unhappiness : for if he quences. · They have drunk their hemlock, added to his miseries that of anticipating his says a fine writer, but the poison does not
yet work.' Perhaps the convulsion may be shall have no hesitation in deciding on which the more terrible for the delay. Let us not side even present happiness lies, be impatient to accomplish a sentence which With a mind thus fixed, with a faith thus infinite justice sees right to defer; it is al- firm, one great object so absorbs the Chrisways time enough to enter into hell. Let us tian, that his peace is not tossed about with think more of restraining our own vindic- the things which discompose ordinary men, tive tempers, than of precipitating their de- *My fortune,'may he say, it is true, is shatstruction. They may yet repent of their tered; but as I made not fine gold my concrimes they are perpetrating. God may stillfidence' while I possessed it, in losing it I by some scheme, intricate, and unintelligi- have not lost myself. I leaned not on power, ble to us, pardon the sin which we think ex- for I knew its instability. Had prosperity ceeds the limits even of his mercy.
been my dependance, my support being reBut we contrive to make revenge itself moved, I must fall." look like religion. We call down thunder In the case of the afflicted Christian you! on many a head under pretence, that those lament perhaps with the wife of the perseon whom we invoke it are God's enemies, cuted hero, that he suffers being innocent, when perhaps we invoke it because they are But would it extract the sting from suffering,
were guilt added to it! (ut of two worlds But though they should go on with a full to have all sorrow in this and no hope in the tide of prosperity to the end, will it not cure next would be indeed intolerable. Would our impatience that that end must come! you have him purchase a reprieve from sufWill it not satisfy us that they must die, that fering by sinful compliances ? Think how they must come to judgment? Which is to ease would be destroyed by the price paid be envied, the Christian who dies and his for it! For how short a time he would enbrief sorrows have a period, or he who closes joy it, even if it were not bought at the exa prosperous life and enters on a miserable pense of his soul ! eternity ? The one has nothing to fear if the It would be preposterous to say that sufpromises of the Gospel be true, the other fering is the recompence of virtue, and yet nothing to hope if they be not false. The it may with truth be asserted that the cawork of God inust be a lie, heaven a fable, pacity for enjoying the reward of virtue is hell an invention, before the impenitent sin- enlarged by suffering, and thus it becomes ner can be safe. Is that man to be envied not only the instrument of promoting virtue, whose security depends on their falsehood ? but the instrument of rewarding it. Besides, Is the other to be pitied whose hope is foun- God chooses for the confirmation of our faith, cled on their reality? Can that state be hap- as well as for the consummation of his grapiness, which results from believing that cious plans, to reserve in his own hand this there is no God, no future reckoning? Can most striking proof of a future retribution, that state be misery which consists in know- Tosuppose that he cannot ultimately recoming that there is both ?
pense his virtuous afflicted children, is to beIn estimating the comparative happiness of lieve him less powerful than an earthly fagood and bad inen, we should ever bear in ther; to suppose that he will not is to bemind that of all the calamities which can be lieve him less merciful. indicted or soffered, sin is the greatest, and Great trials are oftener proofs of favour of all punishments insensibility to sin is the than of displeasure. An inferior officer will heaviest which the wrath of God inflicts in suffice for inferior expeditions, but the sovethis world for the commission of it. God so reign selects the ablest general for the far then from approving a wicked man, be- most difficult service. And not only does cause he suffers him to go on triumphantly, the king evidence his opinion by the selecseems rather by allowing him to continue his tion, but the soldier proves his attachment smooth and prosperous course, to have some by rejoicing in the preference. His having awful destiny in store for him, which will not gained one victory is no reason for his being perhaps be revealed till his repentance is too set aside. Conquest, which qualifies him late; then his knowledge of God's displea- for new attacks, suggests a reason for his sure, and the dreadful consequences of that being again employed. displeasure, may be revealed together,' The sufferings of good men by no means may be revealed when there is no room for contradict the promises that “Godliness has
the promise of the life that now is,'nor that But without looking to futurity-consul-promise that the meek shall inherit the ting only the present condition of suffering earth.' They possess it by the spirit in virtue,-if we put the inward consolation which they enjoy its blessings, by the spirit derived from communion with God, the with which they resign them. humble confidence of prayer, the devout The belief tło that trials will facilitate trust in the divine protection, supports com- salvation is another source of consolation, monly reserved for the afllicted Christian, Sufferings also abate the dread of death by and eminently bestowed in his greatest exi- cheapening the price of life. The affections gence; if we place these feelings in the op- even of the real Christian are too much posite scale with all that unjust power ever drawn downwards. His heart too fondly bestowed or guilty wealth possessed ; we cleaves to the dust, though he knows that VOL. I.
trouble springs out of it. How would it be, the will under actual circumstances, be the if he invariably possessed present enjoy- trial great or small, is more acceptable to ments, and it a long vista of delights lay al- God, more indicative of true piety, than the ways open before him? He has a farther strongest general resolutions of firm acting comfort in his own honest consciousness; a and deep submission under the most trying bright conviction that his Christian feeling unborn events. In the remote case it is the under trials, is a cheering evidence that his imagination which submits : in the actual piety is sincere. The gold has been melted case it is the will. down, and its purity is ascertained.
We are too ready to imagine that there is Among his other advantages, the afflicted no other way of serving God but by active Christian has that of being able to apply to exertions ; exertions which are often made the mercy of God : not as a new and untri- because they indulge our natural taste, and ed, and therefore an uncertain resource. Igratify our own inclinations. But it is an He does not come as an alien before a strange error to imagine that God, by putting us in master, but as a child into the well known any supposable situation, puts it out of our presence of a tender father. He did not power to glorify him ; that he can place as put off prayer till this pressing exigence. under any circumstances which may not be He did not make his God a sort of dernier turned to some account, either for ourselves resort, to be had recourse to only in the or others. Joseph in his prison, under the great water-floods. He had long and dili- strongest disqualifications, loss of liberty, gently sought him in the calm ; he had ad- and a blasted reputation, made way for both hered to bim, if the phrase may be allowed, his own liigli advancement and for the delibefore he was driven to e. He had sought verance of Israel. Daniel in his dungeot, God's favour while he enjoyed the favour of not only the destined prey, but in the very the world. He did not wait for the day of jaws of furious beasts, converted the king of evil to seek the supreme Good. He did not | Babylon, and brought him to the knowledge defer his meditations on heavenly things to of the true God. Could prosperity have e the disconsolate hour when earth has no- fected the former? Would not prosperity thing for him. He can cheerfully associate have prevented the latter ? religion with those former days of felicity, But to descend to more familiar instanwhen with every thing before him out of ces ;-It is among the ordinary, thouga which to choose, he chose God. He not most mysterious dispensations of Providence. only feels the support derived from his pre- that many of his appointed servants who are sent prayers, but the benefit of all those not only éminently fitted, but also most zeawhich he offered up in the day of joy and lously disposed, tó glorify their Redeemer, gladness. He will especially derive comfort by instructing and reforming their fellos from the supplications he had made for the creatures, are yet disqualified by diseas, anticipated though unknown trial of the and set aside from that public duty of whki present hour, and which in such a world of the necessity is so obvious, and of which the vicissitudes, it was reasonable to expect fruits were so remarkable; whilst many
Let us confess, then, that in all the trying others possess uninterrupted health and circumstances of this changeful scene, there strength, for the exercise of those functions is something infinitely soothing to the feel- for wirich they are little gifted and less disings of a Christian, something inexpressibly posed. tranquilizing to his mind, to know that lie But God's ways are not as our ways. He has nothing to do with events, but to submit is not accountable to his creatures The to them ; that he has nothing to do with the caviller would know why it is right. TE revolutions of life but to acquiesce in them, suffering Christian believes and feels it to be as the dispensations of eternal wisdom ; right. He humbly acknowledges the neces that he has not to take the mana rement outsity of the affliction which his friends are leof the hands of Providence, but submissive- menting; he feels the mercy of the measurt Jy to follow the divinc leading; that he has which others are suspecting of injustice not to contrive for to-morrow, but to acqui- With deep humility he is persuaded that it esce to-day ; not to condition about events the affliction is not yet withdrawn, it is be yet to come, but to meet those which are cause it has not yet accomplished the pur present with cheerful resignation. Let him pose for which it was sent. The privation be thankful that as he could rot by foresee- is probably intended both for the individna) ing, prevent them, so he was not permitted interest of the sufferer, and for the repori to foresee them, thankful for ignorance of those who have neglected to profit by his where knowledge would only prolong with-labours. Perhaps God more especials out preventing suffering ; thankful for that thus draws still nearer to himself, him was grace which has promised that our strength had drawn so many others. shall be proportioned to our day, thankful But to take a more particular view of the that as he is not responsible for trials which case, we are too ready to consider suffering he has not brought on himself, so by the as an indication of God's displeasure, Dots goodness of God these trials may be impro- much against sin in general, as against the ved to the noblest purposes. The quiet ac- individual sufferer. Were this the case quiescence of the heart, the annihilation of then would those saints and martyrs who
have pined in exile, and groaned in dun- the order of God by summoning Him at geons, and expired on scaffolds, have been our bar, at whose awful bar we shall soon the objects of God's peculiar wrath instead be judged. of his special favour. But the truth is, some But to return to our more immediate point little tincture of latent infidelity mixes itself the apparently unfair distribution of prosin almost all our reasonings on these topics. perity between good and bad men. As their We do not constantly take into the account case is opposite in every thing—the one is a future state. We want God, if I may ha- constantly deriving his happiness from that zard the expression, to clear himself as he which is the source of the other's misery, a goes. We cannot give him such long credit sense of the divine omniscience. The eye as the period of human life. He must every of God if a pillar of light' to the one, and moment be vindicating his character against a cloud and darkness' to the other. It is no every sceptical cavil; he must unravel his less a terror to him who dreads His justice, plans to every shallow critic, he must anti-than a joy to him who derives all his supcipate the knowledge of his design before its port from the awful thought, Thou God operations are completed. If we may adopt SEEST! a phrase in use among tho vulgar, we will! But as we have already observed, can we trust him no farther than we can see him, want a broader line of discrimination beThough he has said, “judge nothing to foretween them than their actual condition here, the time, we judge instantly, of course rast. independently of the different portions rely, and in general falsely. Were the bre- Strved for them hereafter? Is it not distincvity of earthly prosperity and suffering, the tion Cirugh, that the one, though sad, is certainty of retributive justice, and the safe ; thai the other, though confident, is eternity of future blessedness perpetually insecure? Is not the one as far from rest as kept in view, we should have more patience he is from virtue, as far from the enjoyment with God.
of quiet as from the hope of heaven, as far Even in judging fictitious compositions, from peace as he is from God? Is it nothing we are more just. During the perusal of a that every day brings the Christian neartragedy, or any work of invention, though er to his crown, and that the sinner is every we feel for the distresses of the personages, day working his way nearer to his ruin? yet we do not form an ultimate judgment of Thc hour of death, which the one dreads as the propriety or injustice of their sufferings, something worse than extinction, is to the We wait for the catastrophe, We give the other the hour of his nativity, the birth-day poct credit either that he will extricate them of immortality. At the height of his sufferfrom their distresses, or eventually explain ings, the good man knows that they will the justice of them. We do not condemn soon terminate. In the zenith of his suchim at the end of every scene for the trials cess the sinner has a similar assurance. of that scene, which the sufferers do not ap- But how different is the result of the same pear to have deserved ; for the sufferings conviction ! An invincible faith sustains which do not always seem to have arisen the one, in thc severest calamities, while an from their own misconduct. We behold inextinguishable dread gives the lie to the the trials of the virtuous with sympathy, proudest triumphs of the other. and the successes of the wicked with indig- He then, after all, is the only happy man, nation ; but we do not pass our final sen-_not whom worldly prosperity renders aptence till the poet has passed his. We re-parently happy, but whom no change of serve our decisive judgment till the last worldly circumstances can make essentially scene closes, till the curtain drops. Shal! miserable; whose pcace depends not on exwe not treat the schemes of Infinite Wis- ternal events, but on an internal support ; dom with as much respect as the plot of a not on that success which is common to all, drama?
but on that hope which is the peculiar privi-. But to borrow our illustration from reali- lege, on that promise which is the sole preties. In a court of justice the by-standers rogative of a Christian, do not give their sentence in the midst of a trial. We wait patiently till all the evi
CHAP. XXI. dence is collected, and circumstantially detailed, and fially summed up. And to The temper and conduct of the Christian in pursue the illusion-imperfect as human de
Sicknces and in Death. cisions may possibly be, fallible as we must The pagan philosophers have given maallow the most deliberate and honest verdict ny admirable precepts both for resigning must prove, we commonly applaud the jus- blessings and for sustaining misfortunes; but tice of the jury, and the equity of the judge. wanting the motives and sanctions of ChrisThe felon they condemn, we rarely acquit; tianity, though they excite much intellectual where they remit judgment, we rarely de-admiration, they produce little practical efnounce it. It is only INFINITE WISDOM on fect. The stairs which glittered in their whose purposes we cannot rely ; it is only moral night, though bright, imparted no INFINITE MERCY whose operations we can-warmth. Their most beautiful dissertations not trust. It is only the Judge of all the on death had no cbarm to extract its sting, earth' who cannot do right. We reverse We receive no support from their most ela
borate treatises on immortality, for want of raises their character, and confers dignity Him who brought life and immortality to on their suffering. This philosophic firme light.' Their consolatory discussion could ness is far from being the temper which not strip the grave of its terrors, for to them Christianity inculcates. it was not swallowed up in victory.' To When we are compelled by the hand of conceive of the soul as an immortal princi- God to endure snfferings, or driven by a ple, without proposing a scheme for the conviction of the vanity of the world to repardon of its sins, was but cold consolation. nounce its enjoyments, we must not endure Their future state was but a happy guess : the one on the low principle of its being intheir heaven but a fortunate conjecture. evitable, nor, in flying from the other piust
When we peruse their finest compositions, / we retire to the contemplation of our own we admire the manner in which the medi- virtues. We must not, with a sulen intiecine is administered, but we do not find it ef-pidity, collect ourselves into a centre of our fectual for the cure, nor even for the mitiga- own; into a cold apathy to all without, and tion of our disease. The beauty of the senti- a proud approbation of all within. We must ment we applaud, but our heart continues not contract our scattered fauits into a sit to ache. There is no healing balm in their of dignified selfonness ; nor concentrate cup elegant prescription. These four little feelings intua proud magnanimity, we must words, "THY WILL BE DONE,' contain a not xulopt an independent rectitude, A charm of more powerful efficacy than all the groomy stoicism is not Christian heroism. A discipline of the stoic school! Thev cut up melancholy non-resistance is not Christian a long train of clear but cold reasoning, and resignation. supercede whole volumes of argument on Nor must we indemnify ourselves for our fate and necessity.
outward self-control by secret murmurings. What sufferer'ever derived any ease from We may be admired for our resolution in the subtle distinction of the hair-splitting this instance, as for our generosity and discasuist. who allowed that pain was very interestedness in other instances; but we troublesome; but resolved never to acknow- deserve little commendation for whatever ledge it to be an evil?' There is an equivo- we give up, if we do not give up our own cation in his manner of stating the proposi- inclination. It is inward repining that we tion. He does not directly say that pain is must endeavour to repress; it is the disconnot an evil, but by a sophistical turn pro- tent of the heart, the unexpressed but not fesses that philosophy will never confess it unfelt murmur, against which we must pray to be an evil. But what consolation does the for grace, and struggle for resistance. We the sufferer draw from the quibbling nicety? must not smother our discontents before •What difference is there,' as archbishop others, and feed on them in private. It is 'Tillotson well inquires, between things be- the hidden rebellion of the will we must subing troublesome and being evils, when all due, if we would submit as Christians, Nor the evil of an aflliction lies in the trouble it must we justify our impatience by saying, creates to us?"
that if our affliction did not disqualify us Christianity knows none of these fanciful from being useful to our families, and active distinctions. She never pretends to insist in the service of God, we could more cheerthat pain is not an evil, but she does more ; fully bear it. Let us rather be assured that she converts it into a good. Christianity it does not disqualify us for that duty which therefore teaches a fortitude as much more we most need, and to which God calls us by noble than philosophy, as meeting pain with the very disqualification. resignation to the hand that inflicts it, is A oonstant posture of defence against the more heroic than denying it to be an evil. attacks of our great spiritual enemy, is a
To submit on the mere human ground that better security than an incidental blow, or there is no alternative, is not resignation,but even an occasional victory. It is also a lie hopelessness. To bear affliction solely be- ter preparation for all the occurrences of cause impatience will not remove it is but life. It is not some signal act of mardiff an inferior, though a just reason for bearing tion, but an habitual state of discipline which it. It savours rather of despair than sub- will prepare us for great trials. A soul ever mission, when not sanctioned by a higher on the watch, fervent in prayer, diligent in principle.—'It is the Lord, let him do what self-inspection, frequent in meditation, forti seemeth him good,' is at once a motive of fied against the vanities of time by repented more powerful obligation, than all the docu- views of eternity, all the avenues to such a ments which philosophy ever suggested; a heart will be in a good measure shut agains firmer ground of support than all the ener- temptation, barred in a great degree again gies that natural fortitude ever supplied. the tempter. “Strong in the Lord or in
Under any visitation, sickness tor in the power of his might,' it will be enabled stance, God permits us to think the afflic- to resist the one, to expel the other. Tot tion not joyous but grievous. But though mind so prepared, the thoughts nf sickness he allows us to feel, we must not allow our- will not be new, for he knows it is the prac selves to repine. There is again a sort of dition of the battle;' the prospect of death heroism in bearing up against affliction, will not be surprising, for he knows it is its which some adopt on the ground that it'termination.