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Nor is it at all uncommon for men of the greatest fortitude thus to sink. To produce this, is the tendency of calamities of any kind, personal, domestic, or public. See the Apostle's caution to the Church of Corinth respecting their conduct towards a member whom they had excommunicated from among them. As they had been formerly too backward to punish his offence, so now they were too backward to restore him; on which occasion St. Paul says to them, “ Ye ought rather to forgive him, and to comfort him, lest perhaps such an one should be swallowed up with over-much sorrow b." Here the grief was purely personal: but in Jacob it was of a domestic nature. He had, in his own apprehension, lost his favourite son, Joseph; and now he was afraid of losing Benjamin also: that, he said, would fill up the number of his sorrows, and “bring down his grey hairs with sorrow to the grave." How many at this day have ground to adopt this complaint, in reference to their children! Public calamities, it is true, do not so often press with an unsupporta able weight upon the mind: yet have we several instances of their depressing, almost to the lowest ebb of sorrow, persons of the strongest and the holiest minds. How were Moses and Joshua discouraged, when unexpected circumstances arose to render doubtful the ultimate success of their mission d! Nor was it a love of life, or a fear of death, that made Hezekiah so extremely dejected at the prospect of his approaching dissolution, but an apprehension of the evils that would accrue to his country in the event of his removal; and that one consideration reduced him to such a state of grief as would in any other view have been utterly unworthy of him as a saint of Gode.] 3. By guilt upon the conscience
[What terrible effects did this produce on the mind of the traitor Judas! He could not retain the wages of his iniquity, nor bear his own existence; but sought in suicide a termination of the sorrows he could no longer enduref. Nor is it at all uncommon for persons who once “ made a mock of sin,” to feel so bitterly the torments of an accusing conscience, as to be driven by them to habits of intoxication, and even to death itself, as a refuge. Even good men, previous to their having received a renewed sense of God's pardoning love upon their souls, have been brought to such terrors and despondency, as to find within their own souls a foretaste of hell itself. David's experience in this particular is a just, but lamentable, exhibition of this painful truth 8 —---]
4. By violent temptationsb 2 Cor. ii, 7.
c Gen. xlii. 38. and xliv. 31. d Exod. v. 22, 23. Josh. vii. 7, 8. e Isai. xxxviii. 13, 14. f Matt. xxvii. 3-5. & Ps. xxxi. 9, 10. and xxxviii. 148. and xl. 12.
[Satan, though he can no longer possess the bodies of men as formerly he did, has yet great power over their souls. “His fiery darts” can inflict the deadliest wound. Paul himself was not able to endure “ the buffetings" of that malignant enemy, till, by repeated cries to his Divine Master, he had obtained from him augmented supplies of grace and strength. As for Job, though he was a perfect man, yet he sank entirely under the assaults of this great adversaryi --- Even the Lord of Glory himself, when he had assumed our feeble nature, was so exhausted in his first conflicts with Satan, that he needed to have “ angels sent from heaven to strengthen himk." And in his last hours, when all the powers of darkness made their united assault upon him, he was constrained to say, “ My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death.” What wonder then if Christians of ordinary stature be on some occasions unable to bear up under the wounds which he inflicts upon them?] 5. By spiritual desertion
[This, after all, is the most overwhelming to a pious soul. With the presence of his God a man may bear any thing: but when“ God hides his face from him, he must of necessity be troubled".” In this respect also David shews us what an insupportable affliction this is, and how impossible it is for the strongest or most pious mind to endure itm ---- But in our blessed Lord himself we see the most awful exemplification of this truth: for when all his other afflictions together had not been able to extort from him one complaint, this forced from him that heart-rending cry, “ My God! my God! why hast thou forsaken men ?]
Seeing then that many may be fainting under the agonies of “ a wounded spirit,” we will, II. Administer some balm for its relief
There is no wound that can be inflicted on the soul in this life, which may not, by an application of the proper remedies, be healed. Consider then,
1. There is no affliction which is not sent by God for our good. [Afflictions, of whatever kind they be, “spring not out of the ground:” they are all appointed by God, in number, weight, and measure, and duration. If it be disease of body, it is he that inflicts the wound: if the trial come from any other quarter,
it still is his chastening rod that strikes us, with a view to our spiritual good," that we may be made partakers of his holiness." Convictions of sin are the work of his Spirit, to prepare us for the final restoration of his favour: and Satan himself, as in the case of Job and of Peter, is restrained by God, so as ultimately to display the triumphs of divine grace, and to benefit the souls which he endeavours to destroy: and God himself, in the hidings of his face, seeks only so to humble and purify our souls as to prepare us for the fuller manifestations of his love and mercy°
Now it must be granted, “ that afflictions are not for the present joyous, but grievous: nevertheless, afterwards they work the peaceable fruits of righteousness unto them that are exercised thereby.” “ If we be in heaviness through manifold temptations,” God sees that there is “a needs be” for themP; and that by putting us into the furnace, we shall be purged from our dross, and come out of it as vessels better fitted for his service. Well therefore may the consideration of the end for which they are sent, and of the benefit to be derived from them, reconcile us to the pressure of them, and dispose us patiently to wait for the removal of them. Could Job have foreseen the issue of his troubles, they would have been deprived of more than half their weight.]
2. Our afflictions, of whatever kind they be, will endure but a little time
[The Apostle speaks of all, even the heaviest afflictions, as light and momentary”. Even life itself is but as a shadow that declineth; or a weaver's shuttle, which soon finishes the piece that is to be severed from the loom. And when once this frail life is ended, there is an everlasting termination of all our sorrows. If only we have believed in Christ, and sought an interest in him, we enter immediately into “ his presence, where is fulness of joy for evermore.” Into that blissful world nothing that is afflictive can ever enter to disturb their peace: “ all tears are wiped away from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed aways." And, as no created evil can then impair their bliss, so no created good can add to it: “ The city has no need of the sun, neither of the moon to lighten it; for the glory of God does lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereoft” How little will the transient clouds that once occasioned a momentary gloom be remembered, when our dwelling is for ever fixed in the full splendour of the Sun of Righteousness. Surely we need not
be much cast down at trials, however painful to flesh and blood, when we consider that their duration is but as the twinkling of an eye, and that they will so soon terminate in inconceivable and everlasting felicity.]
3. There is in Christ a full sufficiency for every wound
[We need not go to the eternal world for consolation, for we may find it here. What says the Prophet Jeremiah ? “Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no Physician there? Why then is not the health of the daughter of my people recovered u?" Did we but cry to Jesus, as Paul did, we should find “ his grace abundantly sufficient for us.” “If we cast our burthen upon him, he would sustain us." See the experiment tried by David, and the account which he gives of the result: how soon was he “ taken out of the horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and a new song was put into his mouth, even praise unto our God *!” The very office which our blessed Lord undertook, was that, not of a Redeemer only, but of a Comforter; “ to comfort them that mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, and the garment of praise for the spirit of heavinessy." Let all then look unto him, whatever their affliction now be: even though, like David, they were under the depths of dereliction, they shall soon, with him, have occasion to say, “ Thou hast turned my mourning into dancing; thou hast put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness.”
The Lord Jesus “ will not break a bruised reed, or quench the smoking flax, but will bring forth judgment unto victory:” and, if we confide in him, “our heaviness may indeed continue for a night, but joy shall come in the morning."] u Jer. viii. 22. * Ps. xl. 2, 3. y Isai. lxi. 2, 3. z Ps. xxx. 11.
DCCXCVIII. DIVINE KNOWLEDGE MOST DESIRABLE. Prov. xix. 2. That the soul be without knowledge, it is not good.
THERE is nothing so highly prized as knowledge. No pains are deemed too great for the acquirement of it; no expense too large ——— It is that which, more than any thing else, raises a man in public estimation, and gives him influence in the worlda — There is, however, a knowledge which is far from .a If this were a subject for a COMMEMORATION SERMON, before a Learned Body, the use and excellency of Learning should be largely opened, and form the first head of the Discourse. The second head would be, The superior importance of divine knowledge.
being duly appreciated; I mean, that which relates to the concerns of the soul. Yet is this, beyond all comparison, more important than the other. For this, St. Paul counted all things but as dross and dung. Without the attainment of human sciences, a man may be both holy and happy; but without divine knowledge he can have, I. No directory for his ways
[Reason is very inadequate to guide our steps. We know not of ourselves how to walk and to please God. The wisest of heathen philosophers were but blind conductors in the paths of real holiness: they understood not what holiness was. Of humility, which is the very foundation of holiness, they had no just ideas. So it is with unenlightened Christians. They see little beyond forms and external duties. The exercise of spiritual affections is beyond their attainment or their aim. Of an entire superiority to the world, and a total surrender of themselves to God, they have no conception; unless, indeed, it be in a way of monastic institutions, where the duties of social life are overlooked, and form is substituted in the place of vital power. Of a life of faith in particular, a person uninstructed in the Gospel can have no proper views. Being ignorant of Christ, he cannot see what a fulness there is in him of wisdom and righteousness, and sanctification and redemption; or what necessity there is for the sinner to receive supplies from it, by the daily exercises of faith and prayer. In a word, from a man ignorant of the Gospel, every thing that constitutes vital godliness is concealed. He has no higher principle than that of fear; no better standard than that of heathen morals; no nobler end than that of saving his own soul. As for being constrained by the love of God, or aspiring to a full conformity to the divine image, or living altogether for the glory of God's name, he knows it not; yea, he regards it rather as fanciful, enthusiastic, impracticable, and absurd. Not feeling his obligations to his Redeemer, he wants the entire spring of vital godliness, and can rise no higher than to the low attainment of heathen morals. Tell me then whether he be not in a truly pitiable state.] II. No remedy for his sins
[Every man feels himself to be a sinner, and to stand in need of forgiveness with God. But a man ignorant of the Gospel, seeks remission only in a round of duties, or in mortifications of human origin. He sees not his need of a Mediator, through whose obedience unto death he is to obtain acceptance with God. He knows not of " the fountain which