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SINH 701 ton 999W 29 to 1911T Snorityid your slidw baA ! 115'ibit,
b10 DIENUO 101 ind 916 9W 99ste to r[; } son fuis, a pult all gaid
" SERMON VII. chirive enoid!!!
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ON THE SPIRITUAL USES OF AFFLICTION. hot mility!
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rin John, xvi. 22.
And ye now, therefore, have sorrow : but I w" will see you again, and your heart shall re
joice, and your joy no man taketh from you.
THESE words express
words express to the Christian, both the condition of his present existence, and the hopes which open to him amidst all its precariousness and suffering. Ye now (says our Saviour) have sorrow : but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you.” With all His great achievements for the good and the happiness of mankind, it was not his
* Preached on occasion of several affecting instances of mortality
view to free them entirely from present sorrow. On the contrary, he here intimates to his disciples, that, in that very character, they would be subject to sorrows peculiar to themselves; that, even when the world rejoiced, they would
weep and lament,” but he consoles them with the prospect, that their “ sorrow should be turned into joy.” In their immediate reference, these words were strikingly fulfilled in the persecutions and sufferings of the first Christians ; but they, at all times, apply to the world as it lies before us, and the severe afflictions which often fall upon the best and the most virtuous individuals, have still seemed to hang as a dark and mysterious cloud over the beneficence of the divine administration. This is a subject, therefore, which well merits our attentive consideration. Whether we are at present suffering under the stroke of affliction, or are in the hazard, as we all are, of being subjected to it in its heaviest forms, on any day, or in any hour; it is ever wise in us, amidst the gloom which encircles us, to catch those glimpses of the light of Heaven which break in mercy from the storm. Under the pressure, or in the contemptation of severe affliction, misapprehensions and prejudices are apt to gather upon the mind, which mislead it from its better and wiser sentiments. Sometimes we form harsh strictures on the ways of Heaven-sometimes no less uncandid views of the characters of men : with a little reflection, all such misconceptions may be removed, and it is of infinite moment to remove them, that we may look upon this darkest feature of divine Providence with hearts that are fully alive to all the sentiments of piety and of charity.
I. In the first place, my brethren, when we are suffering or contemplating any severe dispensation of Providence, is it just or right in these moments to forget entirely the mildness and beneficence of its ordinary administration ? The Power, which, in one moment of bitterness, may have torn our hearts in twain; has ever watched over us from the cradle to the present hour of our existence has led us by the hand through all the wanderings and the dangers of our way—has blessed us with every capacity of enjoyment, and has opened to us those high sources of happiness, which, when they are closed, we so grievously deplore! Shall all these innumerable instances of the divine good! ness be forgotten, amid the gloomy impressions of some present instance of seeming severity ? Or rather from the impressions of gratitude which they ought to leave upon us, shall we not bless the hand which strikes us, even while we are writhing beneath the blow ? There is now thing more apparent than the goodness of God, as it is displayed in the system of nature, and in the common course of our daily experience ; it is because it is constant, that we are apt tos disregard it-it is because our choicest bless ings are ever with us, that we lose sight of the bounty on which they depend; it is, on the contrary, because our afflictions are few in com: parison, that they come upon us with the greater shock, and they, in fact, chiefly owe the severity of their aspect to their being so unlike the general tenor of the dispensations of Heaven! Is not this consideration then enough to satisfy us, that they are rather apparent than real exceptions to the gentleness of the divine administration ? Into that great system of be nevolence, surely nothing like cruelty can enter; into ithat system of regularity and wisdom, as little can we suppose the entrance of any thing
like variableness, or fluctuation of counselis The designs in view may be concealed from usm but we see enough to be assured, that we may well confide where we do not comprehend, and that it is wise, no less than pious, to say with Job, “shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil ?" ...", Lil'in
wiu 6 II. There is, however, in the second place, as prejudice of a different kind. While we musti admit, that every thing is wise and benevolent in Heaven, we are apt, at times, to regard the afflictions which we contemplate around us as the punishments of the sufferer: “ Who did sin, this man or his parents ?” was the question of the Jews to our Saviour, in the case of the man who was born blind--and whenever we witness any instance of grievous affliction, this suggestion is ready to find its way into our minds. The reply of our Saviour,“ Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents-but that the works of God should be made manifest in him”, is the true answer to all such strictures. It is not, in these cases, so much the sins of man that are punished, as the moral perfection of man that i is sought to be improved. It is then " that the works of God are to be made manifest in him,"