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iness which they now enjoy; and that thus we may e enabled to glorify our great Redeemer, who was the plague of death, and the destruction of the grave; •who, by his death, conquered him that had the sower of death; and, aster having consecrated the
frave by his own precious body, rose as the First ruits of them that live, and is now gone before, to prepare a place for all his saints.
4. Let us attend to sickness or distress of body. Sickness is a hardship of our own procuring; a hardship which had never been inflicted, had we never sinned. Let us therefore justify God, and turn the complaint against our own folly. Joseph's brethren argued justly, when they said, "We are veri** ly guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw "the anguish of his foul when he besought us, and ** we would not hear; therefore hath this distress come upon us (a)." In like manner, let us reflect upon our conduct, and we will see that-we have cause with them to say that we have sufsered justly, nay, that the punishment is less than our iniquity deserved.
Besides, can we not perceive the wise and gracious design of God in those pains with which he asflicts our bodies? Sin.made its entrance by the senses into the foul. God therefore, in his insinite wisdom and mercy, expels it, the same way by which it came in, and makes the same passage the entrance for repentance. Pleasure deceives the sinner; and what can be more proper to undeceive him than pain? Had we been in the some distress when we were subjected to temptation, how easily had that temptation been resisted? And surely this is sufficient reason for our bearing affliction, not only witli patience, but gratitude. •
Consider, sarther, what the imputation of sin alone cost the Redeemer• lie was in himself holy, harmless, and undesiled. And let me ask you,- Were any sorrows like unto his sorrows, wherewith the Lord
(a) Gei). xlii. 81.
afflicted him in the day of his sierce anger? Yet he bore all with the greatest resignation. "He was op"pressed, yet he opened not his mouth. He was "brought as a lamb to the (laughter; and yet, as a "sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he opened "not his mouth." And shall we, who, both by nature and by practice, are the children of- disobedience, complain, because we receive some temporal correction from- our Father in heaven ?; Think o£ this, and then turn your impatience into indignation against those sins which are the cause of your suffering. Afflictions will sit easy upon you, when once you are free from the burden of sin.. Saul, you may suppose, rejoiced more when he was bound in setters, than when his persecuting zeal was carrying him to Damascus. Remember, the way that leadeth to destruction is broad and easy; but the road to your Father's house is- through many tribulations: and therefore you should bless the Lord, who, by your temporal sufferings,- is -calling upon you to make sure of everlasting rest: and let it be your principal care to < convert your bodily affliction into medicine, for thehealth of .your soul.
5,. Let us attend, Fifthly, to the apprehensions of approaching death. Sickness -and pain are borne by many, who would shrink at the thoughts of dissolution.. While there are any hopes of a recovery, they have still some comfort; but, when these are taken away by unquestionable symptoms of-a satal distemper, they .impiousty -give way to anguish and impatience. Now, to correct this criminal weakriessj give me leave to propose to you a sew-questions* I lave you not always inown that you were to die? Ha6 not this been the universal fate of mankind I: Why then do you complain os what you knew-was to come to pass ? . Would any of ypu, if . left- to his .-own choice, really wish to live perpetually on this earth, where there is nothing but a return of the same pleasures? Would you not all wish to attain the greatest peifection of your existence, to get rid of every in
rant that the way to this liberty lies through the dark valley of death; and that the present frame of his body must be broken down and dissolved, before it can be raised a spiritual and glorious body? Are sickness, pain, death, and old age, preserable to uninterrupted health and perpetual youth? Is the company of sinsul men to be compared with the company of God, of Jesus Christ, of angels, and the spirits of just men made persect? Yet, who does not know that this great and unspeakable happiness is only to be enjoyed in a suture state, aster death has loosed the bonds that'unite us to this earth?
But some of you, perhaps, are sayings. "• If we "were certain that the change would be so much to "our advantage, we could have no reason to be un** easy at the thoughts of death; but that is altoge"ther uncertain : and the searsul prospect of the "consequences of death make us tremble to think of ** the great alteration." God forbid that I should
sears are better founded than you yourselves imagine. The only advice, then, that I can give you, is, to let your present sears instantly push you on to their only cure. Repent of your sins, that brought death into the world. Betake yourselves to Him, who is the way, the truth, and the lise; and then your sears will be converted into the assurance of salvation, and servent desires of being for ever with the Lord. But if you have already attained to this happy assurance, and if your reluctance proceeds from natural insirmity, and a gloominess of thought, to which you cannot give a name ; let me advise you to check, as much as possible, all desponding thoughts, and banish them from your imagination. If saith and reason unite, in telling you that death will introduce you to a sar happier state, and that you are abundantly sase in the hands of the Redeemer; then, shut your eyes against those unknown circumstances that take advantage ot
of you. Perhaps your
your weakness, and turn your thoughts to some subject more adapted to increase your satissaction and peace.' You look, perhaps, on your decaying body; but surely its joys and yours are not essentially connected. When the body is decayed in the grave, the foul shall flourish in immortal vigour. Let this sact then be present with your minds; and especially let me persuade you to commit your parting souls to Christ, and pray for his grace to strengthen your saith, to enliven your hope, so that you may depart in. . peace, and be eternally with the Lord.
I shall now conclude with a sew practical directions.
1. It is necessary to seek an interest in the friendship of God, by a cordial acceptance of the Lord • Jesus Christ, the only Mediator between God and man. I begin here, because, till this is done, all the other directions that I, or any man in the world, can give, will prove useless. Wicked men, through stupidity, may bear adversity with a seeming composure; but I do not hesitate to alSrm, that no man can be resigned, who is not a Christian indeed: for it is impossible that our minds can be formed to a ration'al submission to the will of God, till once we are assured of his friendship; till we are persuaded that he means to bring us to happiness at last; and that all his proceedings are calculated to promote this end. Now, the principal thing beitig thus secured, having fled to Christ for resugeit will be of use,
2. To keep your eyes constantly sixed upon God himself and to consider every stroke of adversity as of his appointment, whatever instruments are used to bring it about. We are frequently in danger of letting against our sellow-creatures for evils that bet'al us. But when we consider them only as instruments in the hand of God, we will say, as David did to his men, when they wanted him to flay Shimei for cursing him, " Let him alone, let him alone; it is "the Lord that hath gommanded him."
3.. We should lay our account with changes, and beware of entertaining the hopes • of a long tract of uninterrupted prosperity. Foreseen evils are easiest borne; but, when unprepared for them,. we are ready to add to our own. distress, and. to repine at the providence of God.
4. Get your hearts weaned from all earthly enjoyments. Believe it, we-lay in-a great store for suture trials, when we suffer our hearts to grow too fond of any thing here below. It is good, therefore, to hearken to the advice given us in the word of God, " to "weep, as if we wept not; to rejoice, as if we re-** joiced not; to buy, as though we possessed not; "and to use this world, as not abusing it; for the "-sashion thereof passeth away."
Lajily, Frequent prayer-as an excellent mean, both of attaining and improving this gracious disposition. To this the Spirit of God directs us by the aptistle James, " Is any among you afflicted, let him pray (a)." By means of prayer, we disburden our hearts to God, and obtain those supplies of grace, which alone can render us superior to all the troubles of lise, and enable us to improve them to the glory of God, and our own- spiritual advantage.
Let us then be caresul for .nothing; but in every thing, by prayer and supplication, make our requests known unto God. And thus the peace tof God, which passeth all understanding, will keep our hearts and minds, through Jesus Christ our Lead.