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are not, however, left in ignorance on this point. The same Holy Scriptures, which tell us, that " man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward 1,” also inform us, that death (whose forerunners and messengers are sickness, and pains, and troubles) entered into the world by sin'. By the transgression of our first parents they and their posterity became subject to death, and all the evils which precede and bring on that awful event. But those very evils which we deplore, those sorrows and afflictions which we so deeply feel, are mercifully designed by our heavenly Father for our good. Death we must all encounter; but there is a second death-a death of body and soul, a death eternal; -and from this a refuge is provided. But such are the blindness and carelessness of man, that he would rarely seek for this refuge, did not sickness and other afflictions show him how fleeting and uncertain are the enjoyments of this life. He does not usually feel himself to be a sinner, until he has experienced some of the sorrows which sin hath brought into the world. So that, much as we shrink from trouble, and naturally as we all wish to pass our lives in the enjoyment of uninterrupted health, it is happy for us that we are in the hands of an Allwise Creator, who determines, not what will be most pleasing to us, but what will best promote our eternal interests. For had we our own will in these respects, it would be at the expense of our immortal souls. Were we never to want the aid of the physician to restore the health of our bodies, it is too probable that

we should remain ignorant of that disease of the soul, 'which sin hath produced, and should never apply to the Divine Physician for spiritual health. Were health and prosperity to smile upon us continually, should we ever think of the life to come? But when through sickness, or other affliction, we see by what a frail thread our life, as well as our temporal happiness, is suspended, we become, under the Divine blessing, more disposed to “ consider our latter end,” and to

i Job v. 7.

2 Rom. v. 12.

prepare to meet our God.”

But, methinks I hear you ask, are all these things meant for our good? Can the agonies which are often felt by the sick-can the sad accidents which befall others be intended for our advantage? Certainly, they all have this tendency: they are all consequences flowing from the introduction of sin into the world: they are the bitter fruits of a tree which seems, alas ! too pleasant to our eyes, until we have plucked, and tasted, the bitterness of it: they are a part of the wages with which sin pays its servants, (as all men are by nature,) and an earnest of what they must expect, if they fall under the power of the second death." Is not sickness, then, well calculated to make us consider the real nature of sin, and the folly and danger of continuing under its dominion? If this, which is but a small part of the burden that it hath laid upon the human race, is found to be so grievous, shall we not be induced to seek deliverance from its service, and to enter into the service of Him whose “ yoke is easy," and whose“ burden is light?" Shall we not be more willing to serve Him who, having borne our griefs and carried our sorrows, still feels for us in our affictions; and, though He sees it needful to our good that we should at times suffer pain and trouble, does not leave us comfortless; but, if we truly believe in Him, supports us by His grace, consoles us by His Spirit, encourages us by hope, and even in the midst of disorder and tribulation gives “ a peace which passeth all understanding ?"

And with regard to the sad accidents of which we so frequently hear, when any of our fellow-creatures have had their bodies bruised and torn, and their limbs broken, and themselves rendered cripples for life; do not these things show us the necessity of seeking a better protection than our own caution and wisdom, and teach us constantly to pray that we may be under

would 66

the providential care of our heavenly Father—that He

preserve (our) going out and (our) coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore ?" While those fatal accidents, and sudden visitations of death, which sometimes happen, teach an awful lesson to survivors, they afford a practical proof of our frailty and helplessness—they show us, that man “cometh up, and is cut down, like a flower; fleeth as it were a shadow, and never continueth in one stay:" and that as in the midst of life we are in death,” we ought daily to seek help from God, and grace to be always ready, since we know neither the day nor the hour, in which we shall be called to the judgment seat of Christ.

But we are not left to our own experience alone to learn the benefit, or to our own reason to gather what is the intention of affliction. The declarations of Holy Scripture, and the experience of eminent characters, which is there stated for our instruction, render this matter so clear, that " he may run that readeth.”

On examining the word of God, we shall be convinced that it is through affliction that “God speaketh —that he openeth the ears of men, and sealeth their instruction, that he may withdraw man from his purpose, and hide pride from man”--that when “he is chastened also with pain upon his bed, and the multitude of his bones with strong pain; so that his life abhorreth bread, and his soul dainty meat;" when “ his flesh is consumed away, that it cannot be seen; and his bones, that were not seen, stick out: yea, (when) his soul draweth near the grave, and his life to the destroyers? :" even then God is dealing with him both wisely and mercifully. It was by this means that the most eminent saints were tried and purified; it was in this way that they were brought by the Divine grace to know themselves as sinners, and to feel their dependence upon God, and to seek His

1 Ps. cxxi. 8.

2 Job xxxiii. 14-22.

favour. As it is written, “ In their affliction they will seek me early.” They will say, " Come and let us return unto the Lord : he hath torn and he will heal us; he hath smitten, and he will bind us up

Come with me, afflicted Reader, and let us see what the experience of some of those Scripture characters will teach us. Pray earnestly to God that, by His grace, the words now read may be applied to your heart, and be attended with a blessing, so that you may be able to say: “ It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I' might learn Thy statutes ? !"

To show the benefit of affliction, and to prove that " whom the Lord loveth he correcteth ; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth," let us consider the cases of Job, of David, and of other eminent characters.

Job, you know, was“ an upright man, and one that feared God and eschewed evil",” yet was he, by the divine permission, suddenly plunged from great prosperity and happiness into extreme poverty and wretchedness. He was deprived of his children, his servants, his large possessions, and of health, being smitten with sore boils from the sole of his foot unto his crown We e may

form idea of the greatness of his sorrow and sufferings from the language which agonized nature forced from his lips : “O that my grief,” he exclaimed,“ were thoroughly weighed, and my calamity laid in the balances together! For now it would be heavier than the sand of the sea ;

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words are swallowed up, (or, I want words to express my grief). For the arrows of the Almighty are within me, the poison whereof drinketh up my spirit: the terrors of God do set themselves in array against me, and now my soul is poured out upon me; the days of affliction have taken hold upon me. My bones are

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Hosea v. 15. vi. l.

4 Job i. 1.

2 Ps. cxix. 71. 3 Prov. iii. 12.

5 Job ii. 7.

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pierced in me in the night-season; and my sinews take no rest.

Let us next hear how David expresses his sorrows. “I am desolate and afflicted," says he ; " the troubles of mine heart are enlarged: O bring thou me out of my distresses.

Look upon mine affliction and my pain; and forgive all my sins. Thine arrows stick fast in me, and thy hand presseth me sore. There is no soundness in my flesh because of thine anger; neither is there any rest in my bones, because of my sin. I am troubled, I am bowed down greatly; I go mourning all the day long. For my loins are filled with a loathsome disease; and there is no soundness in my flesh. My heart panteth, my strength faileth me; as for the light of mine eyes, it also is, gone from me. My soul is full of trouble, and my life draweth nigh unto the grave. Thou hast laid me in the lowest pit, in darkness, in the deeps. Thy wrath lieth hard upon me, and thou hast afflicted me with all thy waves ?.”

Hezekiah, when he was sick, uttered his complaint in nearly similar language: “I did mourn as a dove,” said he, "mine eyes fail with looking upward. O Lord, I am oppressed, undertake for me. What shall I say? He hath both spoken unto me, and himself hath done it. I shall go softly all my years in the bitterness of my soul 3.”

Jeremiah, in like manner, says of himself, “ I am the man that hath seen affliction by the rod of his wrath ; my flesh and my skin hath he made old: He hath broken my bones: He hath filled me with bitter

He hath caused the arrows of his quiver to enter into my reins *.”

“But why," you will probably ask, “ do you direct my attention to the lamentations of these children of sorrow? I know and feel that, when the hand of

1 Job vi. 2, 3, 4. xxx. 16, 17. 2 Ps. xxv. 16, 17, 18. xxxviii, 2, 3. 6, 7. 10. lxxxviii. 3. 6, 7. 3 Isaiah xxxviii. 14, 15. 4 Lam. iii. 1. 4. 13, 15.

ness.

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