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manner in which it is made to happen, conduces to the purposes of warning and admonition, without overthrowing the conduct of human affairs.
Of sickness the moral and religious use will be acknowledged, and, in fact, is acknowledged, by all who have experienced it: and they who have not experienced it, own it to be a fit state for the meditations, the offices, of religion. The fault, I fear, is, that we refer ourselves too much to that state. We think of these things too little in health, because we shall necessarily have to think of them when we come to die. This is a great fault: but then it confesses, what is undoubtedly true, that the sick bed and the death bed shall inevitably force these reflections upon us. In that it is right, though it be wrong in waiting till the season of actual virtue and actual reformation be past, and when, consequently, the sick bed and the death bed can bring nothing but uncertainty, horror, and despair. But my present subject leads me to consider sickness, not so much as a preparation for death, as the trial of our virtue; of virtues the most severe, the most arduous, perhaps the best pleasing to Almighty God; namely, trust and confidence in him, under circumstances of discouragement and perplexity. To lift up
the feeble hands, and the languid eye: to draw and turn with holy hope to our Creator, when every comfort forsakes us, and every help fails ; to feel and find in him, in his mercies, his promises, in the works of his providence, and still more in his word, and in the revelation of his designs by Jesus Christ, such rest and consolation to the soul, as to stifle our complaints, and pacify our murmurs ; to beget in our hearts tranquillity and confidence, in the place of terror and consternation, and this, with simplicity and sincerity, without having, or wishing to have, one human witness to observe or know it, is such a test and trial of faith and hope, of patience and devotion, as cannot fail of being in a very high degree well-pleasing to the Author of our nature, the guardian, the inspector, and the rewarder of our virtues. It is true in this instance, as it is true in all, that whatever tries our virtue,
strengthens and improves it. Virtue comes out of the fire purer and brighter than it went into it. Many virtues are not only proved, but produced, by trials : they have properly no existence without them. “ We glory,” saith St. Paul, “ in tribulation also, knowing that tribulation worketh patience, and patience experience, and experience hope.”
But of sickness we may likewise remark, how wonderfully it reconciles us to the thoughts, the expectation, and the approach of death ; and how. this becomes, in the hand of Providence, an example of one evil being made to correct another. Without question, the difference is wide between the sensations of a person who is condemned to die by violence, and of one who is brought gradually to his end by the progress of disease ; and this difference sickness produces. To the Christian, whose mind is not harrowed up by the memory of unrepented guilt, the calm and gentle approach of his dissolution has nothing in it terrible. In that sacred custody, in which they that sleep in Christ will be preserved, he sees a rest from pain and weariness, from trouble and distress. Gradually withdrawn from the cares and interest of the world : more and more weaned from the pleasures of the body, and feeling the weight and pressure of its infirmities, he may be brought almost to desire, with St. Paul, to be no longer absent from Christ; knowing, as he did, and as he assures us, that, “if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.”
THE KNOWLEDGE OF ONE ANOTHER IN A
Col. i. 28.
Whom we preach, warning every man, and
teaching every man in all wisdom ; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.
THESE words have a primary and a secondary use.
In their first and most obvious view, they express the extreme earnestness and anxiety with which the apostle Paul sought the salvation of his converts. To bring men to Jesus Christ, and, when brought, to turn and save them from their sins, and to keep them stedfast unto the end in the faith and obedience to which