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discover any open stain in his life and man. SERM. ners, 'and, although they had been wit nesses of his continued piety and uprightness, yet they would have it that he was vicious in secret; that, though his actions were apparently virtuous, his principles and his heart were corrupt. When, after the shipwreck of St. Paul, the viper fastened on his hand, how ready were the people amongst whom he was, to cry out, “ No doubt this man is a murderer, whom, “ though he has escaped the sea, yet ven“ geance suffereth not to live.” They looked when he should have experienced the usual effects of the bite of a venomous beast, “when he should have swollen, a or fallen down dead." So, likewise, on meeting with the man that was blind from his birth, the disciples of our Saviour asked him, “Master, who did this sin, this “ man or his parents, that he was born " blind ?”-so closely did they connect to

gether

SERM, gether sin and misfortune; but Jesus anXIV

swered, " Neither hath this man sinned,

nor his parents, but that the works of * God: should be made manifest in him; ”. that is, that I might have an opportunity ! of proving to you that I am a messenger ! sent from God, by working his cure;'-which he accordingly did. . ., - Indeed there are so many reasons, for which misfortunes may fall on a person besides his sins, that candour should always prevent us from putting upon them that construction. Had there, indeed, been no wickedness among men, there' had been no misery; they entered the world together; every man has done something towards perpetuating both, and yet it can by no means be concluded, that when’any person suffers more intensely, he hath therefore sinned more enormously than his fellows. 1: God sometimes permits afflictions to come upon us, as a trial of our faith and

patience

patience, to give us an opportunity of dis- SERM.

XIV. playing hidden virtues, both for own advantage, and the edification of others; sometimes, perhaps, he singles us out from the herd of sinners, to set us as a warning, that others, being spectators of our sorrows, may be brought to reflection and repentance, lest the same or worse evils should fall on them; but nothing from this can be inferred, but that the sufferer, as a man, is a sinner, not that he has sinned more deeply than other men.

We are told in the second commandment, that God sometimes " visits the “ sins of the fathers upon the children “ even unto the third and fourth genę. “ ration;" a man, therefore, in affliction may be doing penance, not for his own iniquities, but for those of his remote ancestors..

There may indeed be instances, where the suffering is so evidently the effect of · Vol. II, p.

the

S

SERM. the crime, or answers so exactly to it, that XIV.

it is impossible not to see the connexion between them: thus, when the drunkard perishes by his intemperance, or the libertine by his sensuality, their fate may justly be looked upon not only as the consequence, but as the punishment, of their vices: thus when dogs licked the blood of Ahab in the same place, in which they had before licked that of Haboth, whom Ahab had unjustly put to death; or when Adonibezek was the object of the same species of cruelty, which he practised on so many kings; in both these cases the correspondence between the crimes and the sufferings was so remarkable, that it might, without hesitation, be deemed the work of God. But then it is to be observed, here the sins were known, and not presumed; and it was not necessary to say, 'There men suffer

greatly, and therefore we conclude they have sinned greatly;" but, 'we already

.. . know

• know they have been guilty of great sins, SERM.

XIV. ! to which their sufferings have so exactly i answered, that we cannot but look on • them as judgments. Yet even in such instances as these, it is more decent to leave it to the afflicted person himself to draw the conclusion, which, in general, his own conscience is ready enough to do. As I have done (says Adonibezek) so “ God hath requited me."

Having thus shewn that it is a custom among men to ascribe signal misfortunes to signal sins, and that this custom is very unreasonable, and in general very unjust, it may be useful to inquire from what cause it arises; this leads me to the second instructive lesson which the text contains, namely, that we ought to apply the sufferings of others to ourselves, and break off our sins by repentance, lest we also perish.

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