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Holy One of Israel," * in Him who “ delighteth in mercy.”+
The unspeakable calamities to which we are exposed, in our passage through life, announce our fallen state; nor is it possible to give any consistent account of them, without referring them, as the word of God uniformly does, to our original defection and departure from God. In this light his conduct in inflicting them appears unexceptionably just and proper. We “ have forsaken the fountain of living water,” and it is just that the “ cisterns” to which we repair should be “ broken.” We have served and loved “ the creature more than the Creator;”S and it is just that created comforts should be imbittered. We have virtually declared, by our conduct, that there is no happiness to be found in God: how fitting is it that he should declare, “You shall find it nowhere else;' how equitable is it that he who leans upon an “ arm of flesh,”|| instead of trusting in the living God, should often [find] it to be a broken reed, which wounds him who stays himself upon it, instead of affording him support! When we consider what a scene of indescribable distress the state of the world presents at this moment;the devastation of [nations]; the sudden reverses of fortune in the highest ranks; and the penury, embarrassment, and distress in the lower ;-who does not see [in these] the tokens of the [divine] * Ezek. xxxix. 7. + Mic. vii. 18. Jer. ii. 13.
$ Rom. i. 25. ll Jer. xvii. 5.
displeasure; who can fail to perceive the marks of a fallen state, and that the Lord has a controversy, by which he pleads with all flesh ?
We have all been guilty of spiritual idolatry, and the Lord, in his justice, spreads our carcases before the objects of our guilty attachment. “ At that time, saith the Lord, they shall bring out the bones of the kings of Judah, and the bones of his princes, and the bones of the priests, and the bones of the prophets, and the bones of the inhabitants of Jerusalem, out of their graves : and they shall spread them before the sun, and the moon, and all the host of heaven, whom they have loved, and whom they have served, and after whom they have walked, and whom they have sought, and whom they have worshipped."* Let us no longer regard the calamities of life as the offspring of chance, or the product of blind necessity, but, agreeably to the oracles of God, as the judgements of the Lord.
II. Let the consideration of the universal exposure of man to calamities and sufferings prevent our being surprised or astonished when it becomes our own lot. When we are unexpectedly led into scenes of trial, we are apt to be filled with emotion, “ as though some strange thing had happened unto us;”+ and perhaps are tempted to suspect that we are treated with an unjustifiable rigour. We are ready too often to draw invidious comparisons between ourselves and those who, * Jer. viii. 1, 2.
† 1 Pet. iv. 12.
we suppose, are dealt with in a more favourable manner; and secretly to say, Why am I thus afflicted and distressed; why am I set as a mark for his arrows ? It might be sufficient, in order to repress such emotions, to remember that the Lord is a sovereign, who gives no account of his matters: shall the thing formed say to him that formed him, “Why hast thou made me thus ?” “ Who art thou that repliest against God ?”* “ Shall a living man complain, a man for the punishment of his sins ?” of We must be strangely unacquainted with ourselves, if we are not aware, that he has corrected us less than our iniquities deserve. These considerations, however, though not slight, are not the only ones which are fitted to calm the tumult of the breast. We may, with advantage to ourselves, and unitedly with the most perfect benevolence, cast our eyes abroad, to contemplate the universality of distress. We are not the only or the greatest sufferers : we have innumerable companions in tribulation. Without giving scope to imagination, or quitting the realities of life, we may easily findi among our fellow-creatures instances of deeper woe, and more complicated distresses, than those which we feel. Here we may see a person, like Job, flourishing in affluence, and reduced, by a sudden and unexpected stroke, to the depth of penury. There we may behold another, like the same illustrious sufferer, deprived in a very short * Rom. ix. 20.
† Lam. iii. 39.
season of all his offspring by death. There we see the widowed mother of a numerous family at a loss to still the cries of her children, who are clamorous for bread. If we turn in another quarter, we may find a poor unhappy creature wasting away under an incurable and painful disorder, where the only vigorous principle seems to be the living cancer which corrodes him. Hear the bitter lamentation of Job: “Even to-day is my complaint bitter, and my stroke heavier than my groaning."* “ When I lie down, I say, When shall I arise, and the night be gone? I am full of tossings to and fro.”f “Oh that my grief were thoroughly weighed, and my calamity laid in the balances together!” “therefore my words are swallowed up.” “ For the arrows of the Almighty are within me, the poison whereof drinketh up my spirit.” I Hear the man after God's own heart exclaim, “I water my couch with my tears, § and mingle my drink with weeping." || “By reason of grief my flesh is dried up, and my heart is withered as grass." Look at the history, not of the enemies only, but of the most eminent servants of God, and you will generally find their trials as conspicuous as their piety: so true is it that the high road to heaven is through suffering; and that “ through much tribulation we must enter into the kingdom.”**
* Job xxiii. 2.
† Job vii. 4.
I Job vi. 2, 3, 4.
If we are tempted to repine at seeing others in peace and prosperity, while we are harassed and distressed, we form a most inadequate and premature judgement. Their period of trial will arrive; their day of calamity is also approaching; the mildew that blights their enjoyments is prepared; and from the evil omen of adversity it will be impossible for them to escape, more than ourselves. “If a man live many years, and rejoice in them all; yet let him remember the days of darkness; for they shall be many."
III. Here we learn the propriety of not looking for happiness on earth. “ This is not our rest : it is polluted.”* A state exposed to so much calamity can never have been designed as the scene of enjoyment; it must have been calculated for the purpose of trial. It is not Canaan ; it is the wilderness through which the chosen tribes were destined to pass in their way to it; it is a vale of tears, (along which the christian pilgrim toils and struggles in his passage to the heavenly kingdom. Let us understand the real nature of our present condition; let us learn that nothing belonging to it is merely or principally intended for our gratification; that it is well suited to be the abode of a sinful creature upon trial, under a dispensation of mercy; where there is just enough of good to support under evil, and those prospects of greater good afforded in a future state, which are sufficient to dispel despondency. It is
* Micah ij. 10.