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them: but are we equally solicitous for the health and vigour of our minds ?. Though “from the crown of the head to the sole of the foot there is no şoundness in us," yet how fretful are we, and uneasy, when God is acting the part of a skilful physician towards us ! If he but touch the hair of our head-I mean, if he only afflict us, though ever so slightly, in our health, our reputation, our fortune, family, or friends--we are presently in tears, or in arıns; 'secretly murmuring, or openly rebelling: whereas, if we knew ourselves, and rightly understood our own interest, we should look upon affliction as one of the greatest blessings we could possibly enjoy: we should, even while we were smarting under the rod, earnestly beseech him to do as he does; and take the bitterest cup which he puts into our hands, with the same readiness and thankfulness that we should receive a sovereign medicine from a physician, of whose tenderness and skill we were fully persuaded; which, though we knew it to be disagreeable and nauseous, yet presuming it will conduce to the establishment of our health, we gladly swallow. The advantages of af, flictions are so many and great, in calling us to consideration, teaching us, our duty, regulating the tempers of our minds, weaning us from the world, quickening us in our Christian course, and preparing us for the heavenly glory--I say, these : advana tages of afflictions are so obvious and so important, that, were there no other alleviating considerations, they might well be expected to make us, not only patient, but cheerful,
say; as to the common calami. ,
* True,': you
ties of life, these observations have propriety and force in them: if the fig-tree do not blossom this year, it may the next; if present schemes and contrivances be blasted, future ones may succeed better; if “riches make to themselves wings, and fly away,” God can easily command them back again : 80 that, with respect, to these things, it does not seem so difficult to rejoice in tribulation. But tears for the dead carry with them their own justification, Our loss is irreparable. God hath removed the desire of our eyes” with a stroke ; and must we not mourn or weep? “Lover and friend hath he put far from us, and our acquaintance into darkness," and would you have us rejoice? He is
gone “the way whence he shall never return,” and we have seen him locked up in the silent chambers of the grave, to be a companion, to be food, for worms; and would you have us suppress our sorrow ? "O that our heads were waters, and our eyes fountains of tears !” we would weep them dry on so mournful an occasion.'--But, let not our passions run away with us: let us see whether the words now read will not suggest some considerations that may be of service to moderate, if not to remove, our grief ; and make us easy, if not cheerful.
“ If ye loved me, ye would rejoice, because I said, I go unto the Father.”—I will not stay to consider the words in their original meaning, as spoken by our Lord to comfort his disciples under the apprehension of bis approaching departure ;
-though it is a passage full of the divinest consolation, and the foundation of our present comforts and future expectations. Nor will I make the least apology
for putting the words of our Saviour into the mouth of our friend. I will leave it to you, who knew him, and loved him, to vindicate the propriety of it.
To see persons of amiable qualities and excellent dispositions, very capable of service, and strongly inclined to it, cut down, when they had just begun to serve God and their generation; and the world and the church early deprived of such as were likely to prove ornaments and blessings ; is an ancient difficulty in providence, that has employed the minds, disturbed the thoughts, and staggered the faith of God's people, from one generation to another. We should not therefore wonder, as if some strange thing had happened to us, when God takes from us our most desirable relations; when he wounds us, as it were, in the apple of our eye; and plucks from our embraces that, which, of all earthly blessings, our heart was most set upon. We ought not to say, with Gideon, “ If the Lord be with us, how is it that this evil hath fallen upon us?" (Judges vi. 13); as if he were bound to take nothing from us that we were unwilling to part with, though it be his own more than ours; and, yet, how ready are we to say, with the sisters of Lazarus, “Lord, if thou hadst been here, our brother had not died !"
- Such are our mistaken apprehensions of God under the darkness of the present state ; such is our inordinate affection for temporal blessings'; so ignorant, or inconsiderate, are we as to the design of God in afflicting us, and what glory to God and what advantage to ourselves may arise from our severest trials. By which means we are easily betrayed into uneasiness, discontent, and despair, and are tempted to question the tenderness and care of our heavenly Father: whereas the usefulness, the necessity, of such dispensations; and the wisdom, faithfulness, and mercy of God therein; may be clearly demon. strated to every serious and considering mind. Was it not, blessed spirit (for well thou knowest), was it not wise, was it not just, was it not kind, in God, thus severely to chasten thee? Was it not good for thee that thou wast thus afflicted ? If thou wert permitted to return to us again, and to choose thy situation ; wouldst thou not, without the least hesitation, pitch upon that same feeble, disordered,
, worn-out 'tabernacle, which thou hast lately left ; and prefer the inconveniences and pains of such an infirm constitution, to all the pleasures of health and ease ? For dost thou not see, dost thou not feel and enjoy, the blessed consequence of them? Dost thou not find, by happy experience, that
light afflictions” do indeed “work out à far more exceeding and éternal weight of glory?" : Surely, Christians, if ye loved him, ye would rejoice: ye would put on the “ garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness ;” or, if you must shed tears, they would be tears of joy.--And this is reasonable, if we consider,
I. The world he has left.
And what is it, but a mere wilderness, a desert, a den and shelter for beasts of prey ; a thorny path, where our pleasing sensations are mingled with painful ones, and we seldom taste a cup that has not sotre bitter ingredients in it ;-where there are a thousand things to ensnare our affections, which in the moment of enjoyment:"pierce us through with many sorrows," where the best things are "vanity,"
and the rest no better than “yexation;"-where we have craving desires, without any object, suited to their real gratification; where, consequently, we are ever pursuing, ever expecting, and ever dis: appointed ;-where the little pleasure is alloyed with pain; but our sorrows are more numerous, weighty, and unmixed;--where we need not go abroad to fetch cause of complaint from others,
; our own weaknesses, wants, and corruptions supplying us with too many at home ;--where the very necessities, infirmities, and pains of the body, are a continual burthen, and subject us to $0 many calamities, as to make us groan under the weight of it, and long to be “ unclothed ;-where a great part of our time is taken up in supplying its wants, and guarding against sickness, which, after all, will find or force its way, and unfit us for exer. eise and enjoyment ;--where our bodies are not only troublesome, but dangerous, compapions ; where all the objects of sense, our food, clothes, bouses and estates, friends and relations, and our. selves most of all, yield ys temptations and betray us into sin ;---where repelled temptations are continually returning, and vanquished corruptions are josensibly recovering strength; so that our work is never done, and our danger never over ;q--where, if we had no complaints of our own to make us sad, the unhappiness or loss of our friends and acquaintance, whose intercourse sweetened and im.. proved our lives, is continually calling for our sympathy and tears ;---W bere, if we had friends, and health, and ease, and plenty, and pleasure, and every thing to answer the demands of nature and fancy, the thoughts of death would imbitter all,