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BLESSINGS OF GOD'S LOVE.
357 sickness cloud your days, they cannot bid disease depart and health return; but he can; or else he can make pain better than ease, and sickness a greater good than health. If sin and sorrow oppress your soul, no earthly friends can take the load of guilt away; nor can they comfort the troubled conscience, mourning for years of sin and folly; but this almighty Father can fill the broken heart with heavenly peace: he can say, Be of good comfort; thy sins are forgiven thee. He can forgive all the guilt that renders judgment terrible, and fill your soul with peace so sweet, and hope so strong, as to quell every fear, and silence every doubt. And all you want besides he can bestow. He can enrich you with plenty, or make loss and poverty better blessings than prosperity and wealth. He can fill your heart with love, and help you to believe, confide, rejoice. And when the solemn hour arrives, in which you must die, even in that momentous hour he has power to give all your departing soul will need. Then earthly friends, the dearest and the best, can only mourn. They cannot drive our fears away; nor can they open the portals of heaven, and say, Come in, thou blessed. But God, your kind heavenly Father, can do more than this: he can make death better than life, and render your last your happiest hour. He can banish every gloomy fear, and make death itself wear a smile, and seem a messenger of heavenly love, come to summon you to the abodes of glory. He can gladden with immortal hopes your dying moments; and give you an abundant. entrance into his eternal kingdom.
$ 16. Perhaps the scenes through which God leads you are scenes of trial, vet consider, whatever be the immediate source of affliction, that trials come from God. Even when wicked men are the authors of his sufferings, the Christian may say, “ They are the sword, the hand is thine." That afflictions come from God, is the declaration of his word. “When we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world.”r “ If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons: for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons."$ As afflictions thus proceed from God, so they are declared to be the effect of his love. “As many as I love, I rebuke and (9) 1 Cor. xi. 32.
(W) Heb. xii. 7, 8.
AFFLICTIONS ARE MERCIES. chasten : be zealous, therefore, and repent.” “ Whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth."
If any escape affliction, the children of God are not of that number. All whose holy example is displayed in the sacred Scriptures, and whose piety shone with the brightest lustre, passed along a chequered path to heaven. Job and Joseph, and the patriarchs, Elijah and Daniel, and the prophets, Pau and the apostles, were trained for glory and happiness in scenes of earthly trial. Even Jesus was a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief. Yet in the darkest day of trouble many are the sources of Christian consolation. Is God leading you through the fire, or the waters, of affliction ? think of the gracious design he has in view. He chastens “ for our profit, that we may be partakers of his holiness." He afflicts you to ripen your soul for that happier land, where no affliction is ever felt. He sinks, you on earth that you may rise in heaven; and makes you sad for a moment here that he may make you happier through eternity there. God has various ends to accomplish in the afflictions of his children. Sometimes he afflicts them to humble and to purify their soul. To keep him humble, Paul was afflicted ; and Job said, “ When he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold;" and his word deelares, “ Now, no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless, afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.”y At other times the Father of mercies designs to brighten their graces, to strengthen their faith and patience. Hence his word says, “ The trying of your faith worketh patience." “ Now for a season (if need be) ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations; that the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, might be found unto praise, and honour, and glory, at the appearing of Jesus Christ.”a Sometimes God by affliction would lead the affections of his children upwards to a better world, while he enables them to declare, “Our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are (1) Rev. iii. 19. ... (u) Heb. xii., 6., (v) Heb. xii. 10. . (w) 2 Cor. xii. 10 (a) Job xxiii. 10.
(z) James i. 2, 3. (a) 1 Pet. i. 6, 7.
(v) Heb. xii. ll.
ENCOURAGEMENT UNDER AFFLICTION. 359 not seen.” At other times, by chastening them, he teaches them to exercise resignation and submission. “ Tribulation worketh patience." On some occasions afflictions are employed to restore wanderers to the path of peace. The Psalmist said, “Before I was afflicted I went astray; but now I have kept thy word."d At others, afflictions make them feel more sensibly the vanity of all below, and endear their God and Saviour to them. Then the language of the Psalmist expresses the feelings of the humble, happy soul. “ Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee. My flesh and my heart fail : but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever."e
$ 17. While such are God's gracious designs in the chastisements his hand inflicts, the Christian has reason to rejoice, even in afflictions. God promises to support his suffering family, and teaches them to contemplate a day when all their afflictions end. All their trials are under his control, are sent in mercy, and will end in good. “We know that all things work together for good to them that love God.”f While they last he promises to his children divine support. “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble: therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea.” “ When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take me up."! “ I, even I, am he that comforteth you." “ When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee: and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee; when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned ; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.'h “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee."i How precious are these promises! What more can be desired than the support and presence of our God !
Does affliction cloud your sky? do sorrows overwhelm your sinking spirits ? yet forget not that God is kind. “ He careth for you.'' Gracious declaration! what words can be more expressive of his tender interest in your happiness? “ He careth for you." Not only gives you blessings, but cares for your welfare ; makes your little interests his concern. Surely (6) 2 Cor. iv. 17, 18. (c) Rom. v. 4. (d). Ps. cxix. 67. (e) Ps. lxxiii. 25. 26.
) Rom. viii. 28. 6) Ps. xlvi. 1, 2, 7; xxvii. 10; xxxiii. 18, 19.-- () [sa. li. 12; xliii. 2. (6) Heb. xiii. 5,6.
(A) 1 Pet. v.7.
AFFLICTIONS SOON ENDED. all must be right that so gracious a Friend appoints ! all must tend to good that so kind a Father ordains! “ He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things ?"? Did he thus give his best Beloved for you, and can you think that he will refuse you any real good ? Are you oppressed with sickness and pain ? God could give you health : to give you health would be a little thing compared with giving you Christ. Surely if he does not give you health, the reason must be, he sees it best to appoint you sickness. Are you poor? God could give you wealth. He gave you Christ; and if he keeps you poor, the cause must be, that poverty is best for you. Were riches best, he who gave Christ would give you riches. Whatever fancied good you may desire, you may argue, If this were real good, God would give it me. He who gave Christ, that great and precious boon, would not refuse this trifling gift, if this would prove a blessing to me. A suffering Christian, after a night of pain, observed, “ It has been a night of great pain, but it was a night appointed me by Jesus Christ, and sure it must be a good one that he appoints. Had I lain down my life for you, your good nights would have been my anxious care.” Thus reason respecting your heavenly Father's conduct. Doubt not his love, who gave a Saviour. Depend on his interest in your happiness, through the few moments of time, who sent his only-begotten Son into the world, to make you happy to eternity.
$ 18. The trials of life will soon conclude. Vain is all below the sun, except the blessings of your heavenly Father's love. The pleasures of this world pass away. The wisdom of this world is fading and dying. The head that has often ached in acquiring science, soon lies down in the dust, and forgets its vaunted knowledge. Expect not therefore living comforts in a dying world. Your trials too are short, for eternity is near. In the light of eternity, how insignificant will those short trials seem! Time and sorrow are hastening by, eternity and bliss are approaching : and when you wake amidst eternal things, how little will seem what you enjoyed or suffered here! What will the loss of property, or the loss of reputation, signify then! When, ten minutes after death, you look back on this world, how vain a dream will all the
(1) Rom. viii. 32.
THE CHRISTIAN'S HOME.
361 scenes of life appear! What poor trifles will its pleasures seem ! what dying things its friendships! what little griefs its heaviest woes! And when ten thousand ages have fled away, and you look back on what now seems like a sea of trouble, that ocean of affliction will be like the drop of a bucket. Formidable as it once seemned, it will then appear like nothingness itself. Let the thought of eternity mingle with the trials of time; and its weightiest trials will be felt “ as light affliction, which is but for a moment.” And while those momentary trials continue, think whither they hasten you. Every day of affliction hastens the children of God to the haven of eternal peace. As the tossing of a tempest may hurry a shattered ship sooner to its harbour than the fairest wind that blows; so the rough storm of worldly sorrow, as well as the peaceful gale, and perhaps more hastily, may urge the Christian to the port where every storm shall cease. Keep that peaceful port in view. Faith will soon be lost in sight; hope make way for certainty ; time and its shadows be perhaps almost forgotten amidst the glories of eternity. The dark night of life will shortly close ; affliction's last tempest be hushed in peace; and the bright morning of eternal day open on the tranquil and enraptured soul. Then farewell to chastisement, to grief, and pain.
§ 19. Happy are they who enjoy the love and care of a gracious Saviour, and a heavenly Father! Happy amidst the scenes of time, and happier when quitting them for ever! Their great work is done, their best interests are secure, Should even sudden death hurry them from health and vigour to the cold tomb, yet they are blessed, whose home is in the skies, whose Father is in heaven. When life declines, glory will dawn; and the moment that bears them hence will bear them home.
Come, my fellow-pilgrim, let us contemplate that home. How fair is the prospect! how bright the eternal day! how sweet the peace the hope of that eternal day imparts! The Christian is blessed, who looking beyond the shadows of time, can exclaim, “ As for me, I shall behold thy face in righteousness.” “ Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory." Though my path may be rough and thorny, thou shalt guide me, and, blessed hope ! thou wilt receive me—even me to glory. The world have