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a condition characterized by vicissitude, by danger, by suffering, and by hope; and he is to be esteemed the happiest man who most surmounts its tempests, escapes its pollutions, and is sanctified by its trials. Are you at present in circumstances of ease and comfort ? be thankful for it, but place no reliance on its continuance. Enjoy with moderation whatever is gratifying in your lot, but let it not engage your heart, let it not deeply entangle your affection. By an intimate converse with the promises of the gospel, learn to live above [the world], and consider it not as [constituting] your portion or your happiness. Study, indeed, to the utmost to be dead to the world, and alive to God; that “when he, who is our life, shall appear, ye also shall appear with him in glory."*
IV. Let us all be engaged to lay in a suitable preparation for the days of adversity. Let us be aiming to acquire, by faith and prayer, and the diligent perusal of the Scriptures, those principles which will effectually support us in the dark and cloudy day.
The christian character is (formed] of such dispositions as are each of them apart, and still more when combined, adapted to support the soul amidst the severest trials. Under the influence of these, the christian believer fears none of those things that may happen. Faith, by elevating the attention to a future world—to the glory to be revealed,
* Col. iii. 4.
by imparting to the real christian a living sense of that atonement which is given in the gospel, is a principle of primary efficacy. The habitual disposition to look upon this present state as a passage and a pilgrimage, which is deeply wrought into the christian character, is of itself an admirable preparation for suffering. The solemn renunciation of the world included in this [impression] of the [mind] tends immediately to the same effect. Thus the joys of faith, the consolations of the Holy Ghost, raise the soul to a surprising elevation above the storms and trials of life.
ON CHASTISEMENT RESULTING IN PENITENCE.
Jer. xxxi. 18.—Thou hast chastised me, and I was chastised, as
a bullock'unaccustomed to the yoke : turn thou me, and I shall be turned; for thou art the Lord my God.
This chapter contains great and gracious promises made to the people of Israel, upon the prospect of their true repentance. They are assured that, notwithstanding the severe rebukes of Providence, the Lord had mercy in reserve, when their afflictions had answered the purpose for which they were appointed, in humbling and reforming them.
Before God visits his people with consolation, he prepares them for it by inspiring a penitential spirit, well knowing that to indulge them with his smiles, while they continue obstinate and
unreclaimed, would neither comport with his character, nor contribute to their good. His benignity and condescension are sufficiently evinced in his “ waiting to be gracious;” in the promptitude with which he pardons the humble penitent. He shews himself attentive to the first movement of the contrite heart, agreeable to his declaration in the passage before us, “I have surely heard Ephraim.” In these words we have the picture of the inmost feelings of a humble and penitent heart. We behold it in the deepest retirement, without the least disguise, pouring itself out before God.
In these remarkable words we have an acknowledgement and a prayer.
I. These words contain an acknowledgement“ Thou hast chastised me, and I was chastised, as a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke.”
1. This expression we conceive to denote the inefficacy of former corrections. In the Septuagint it is rendered, “ As a bullock, I was not taught: thou didst chastise me, and I was chastised.” This was all; and no other effect ensued than the uneasy pain which chastisement necessarily imparts. Ephraim is represented as conscious that former corrections had answered little purpose. He laments the little improvement he had made, and prays for such an interposition of divine power and grace as may work an efficient conversion : “ Turn thou me, and I shall be turned.” The rebukes of Providence are often represented in the Scriptures in this light.—“ And ye have forgotten
the exhortation, which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him : for whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth."*
Since afflictive dispensations “spring not from the dust,” but are ordained of God, who takes no pleasure in the sufferings of his creatures, nor “ willingly afflicts the children of men;" f-since a state of innocence would have included an exemption from every sorrow on the one hand, and the sufferings of life are not, for the most part, destructive,—there is no light in which it is so natural to consider them as chastisements; which are effects of displeasure, but not of a displeasure intended for the destruction of its object, but the amendment.
2. Though corrections are calculated to produce amendment, though such is their tendency and design, it is evident, from observation and experience, they often fail in accomplishing the effect. It is not uncommon to see men hardened under rebukes, and to grow more bold and presumptuous in the commission of sin, after having experienced severer trials than before. This melancholy fact is of no recent observation; it is frequently described and lamented in the word of God. “ Thou hast stricken them,” says Jeremiah, “but they have not grieved; thou hast consumed them, but they have refused to receive correction: they have * Heb. xii. 5, 6.
+ Lam. ïï. 33.
made their faces harder than a rock; they have refused to return.”*
Of the inefficacy of mere external correction, we have a striking proof in the conduct of the generations who were conducted from Egypt under the hand of Moses. Never were a people more frequently or more severely corrected, and never did a people [shew] themselves more incorrigible. While the remembrance of their sufferings was fresh, they seemed disposed in earnest to seek God; but no sooner did the sense of their calamities wear off, than they relapsed into all their former disobedience and rebellion. “When he slew them, then they sought him: and they returned and inquired early after God. And they remembered that God was their rock, and the most high God their redeemer. Nevertheless they did flatter him with their mouth, and they lied unto him with their tongue.”+ This is but a picture of what we may observe every day. We see men, under afflictive dispensations, evince a degree of emotion: they appear, in some measure, humbled and convinced; and, with much apparent sincerity, confess their persuasion of the vanity of the world, and of the utter impossibility of finding happiness out of the ways of religion. If they are brought to the brink of the grave, and eternity presents itself to their immediate prospect, we find them making the most solemn resolutions, condemning their former course of life, and resolving, if spared, * Jer. v. 3.
† Psalm lxxviii. 34–36.