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On the Advantages of Affliction.
Being a. Sermon occasioned by the Death of Mr. Burton, of Montpelie^Row, in 'Twickenham.
Preached in Twickenbafn-Chapd, on Midlent Sunday, 1742; and published at the Request of the Audience.
Psalm LXXVII. 3.
When 1 am in Heaviness, I will think upon God.
THE whole Psalm is written withSerm. II. a very beautiful Spirit of Poetry;' and if we consider it merely as an human Composition, may justly challenge our highest Admiration, In the former Part, the Psalmist vents an Heart overcharged with Grief, and writes with the deepest Emotions of Sorrow. In the Day Vol. II. D of
Serm. II. 0f my Trouble 1 sought the Lord, my Sore ran in the Night and ceased not, my Soul refused to be comforted. And again, at the seventh Verse, Will the Lord absent himself for ever, and will he be no more favourable? Hath God forgotten to be gracious? Hath he in Anger shut up his tender Mercies? Thus does he discharge the Fulness of his Soul j till, by a very natural, and yet very surprising Transition, from a Rehersal of his own Woes, he passes on to celebrate the marvellous Acts of God. For, to relieve himself under the Pressure of his present Afflictions, he has Recourse to the former Mercies, which God had vouchsafed to the Israelites. Surely I will remember thy Wonders of old. This ushers in those sublime Flights of Poetry, which are peculiar to the Genius of the Eastern Nations. The Waters saw Thee, 0 God; the Waters saw Thee: They were afraid r The Depths also were troubled', &c. Then, to represent the Unsearchableness of God, he compares him, by a very beautiful Allusion, to a Being walking upon the Waters, the Traces of whose Feet could not therefore be discovered: Thy Way is in the Sea, and thy Paths in the great Waters, and thy Footsteps are not known. If
If we should set aside the Sanction ofS divine Authority, which stamps an additional Value upon the Psalm; yet it could not fail to affect every Reader of a refined Taste. And when we either consider those melting Strains, in which he describes his own Woes j or that exalted Vein, in which he represents the Majesty of God j we shall be at a Loss, whether to admire more the Greatness of that Genius, which could acquit itself with so masterly an Hand in both the pathetic and sublime Way of Writing; or the Justness of that Judgment, which could with so dexterous an Address, with so easy, and I had almost said, so natural an Art, glide from the one to the other.
The Author of the Psalm ha'd a Mind deeply tinctured with Piety. When his. Heart was in Heaviness, he thought upon God: But to think on him then with Plea• sure, he must have set God constantly before him in the smooth Seasons of Life. This will lead me to shew,
lst, The Happiness and Reasonableness of turning our Thoughts to God in • general.
D 2 Wdh, Serm. II. lldfyi The peculiar Advantages of Af""fliction, to bring us to a just Sense of God, and our Duty.
• l/l, I am to shew the Happiness and Reasonableness of turning our Thoughts to God in general.
To repair to God only, when under Affliction, is to use Him as some conceited Philosophers have done, who never have Recourse to Him, and take Him into their Schemes, but when they are in Distress, when they meet with some Difficulty, which they cannot psausibly account for, or get over, without calling Him in to their Aid.
Besides, never is there more Occasion for Good-Humour, Chearfulness, and an undisturbed Serenity of Mind, than when we form our religious Notices. For, though the brightest Ideas of the Deity may be retained and cherished under any Indisposition of Mind or Body; yet, to retain and cherish them at that Juncture, they must be imprinted in indelible Characters on the Soul, when it was in an easy Situation: Otherwise, Religion will not brighten up •our Minds, and lighten the Darkrtefs of x , them j
them; our Minds will darken and disco-Sermi Irlour Religion. And what has given some People a Distaste for it, is; that having never applied themselves serioufly to it, but when they were in a dull, joyless, sullen Humour, which represented every Thing they were conversant about to be dull and joyless; the Notions of Religion, and of a joyless State, have been, however unduly connected, ever after inseparable. By meditating on God only, or even chiefly, in a melancholy Hour, you will associate the Idea of Gloominess and Horror with that of Religion: You will view Him, just as He was worshipped in old Gothic Buildings, in a dim solemn Light, which sheds a pensive Gloom over, and saddens every Object. You will not serve Him with that Gladness, which he requires: For God loveth a chearful Worshipper, as well as a chearful Giver. But you will repair with Reluctance and Constraint to that Service, which is perfeEl Freedom.
We are indigent Creatures, insufficient of ourselves for our own Happiness, and therefore ever seeking it somewhere else. But where we shall effectually seek for it, is the Question. Unless the Thoughtful D 3 and