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frivolities of the world, in seclusion, turns over the pages of recorded experience, gathers the sweets of genius from the pages of history, or philosophy, and possessing a sound mind, in a sound body, pursues the path of life with composure and dignity, calmly awaiting that solemn event which is to close his present state of being, in the hope of being removed hence to some other province in the wide empire of the universe; and there enjoy new pleasures in the more expanded contemplation of the great Creator's works and plans?
Were the question proposed to a young man-(whose taste for pleasure was keen, and who had not known, as yet, how transitory and unsatisfactory every earthly enjoyment becomes after a few repetitions whose lot on earth, thinkest thou, is most blessed? Would he not be apt to reply: His, surely, who has the means and the opportunity of enjoying all the pleasures of taste, of the heart, and the senses-who without any restraint can indulge himself in all the fashionable gaieties of life --who, day after day, and night succeeding night, can quaff the full bowl of delicious joy, and, after partial satiety, can again return and riot in all the luxuriance of unlimited enjoyment.
Such, probably, would be the decision of the greater part of mankind whose minds had never been illumined by the beams of divine truth. But what says the word of inspiration on this subject? It says not, “ blessed are the rich the powerful-the gay-nor even, blessed are the healthy—the patriarch of many days, or the possessor of many friends. But it says" Blessed are the poor in spirit-blessed they who mourn-blessed are the meek--blessed they who hunger and thirst after righteousness--blessed are the merciful-blessed are the pure in heartblessed are the peace makers, and those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake.” Such are the characters whom the omniscient Saviour pronounced pre-eminently“ blessed.” And the holy psalmist pronounces those “blessed," whom the Lord "chastens and teaches out of his law.”
But possibly it may be asked, how can this be true consistently with the known principles of human nature? How can suffering and happiness be reconciled? Can that man be happy whose health is impaired by disease—whose friends are taken from him by death, or who is reduced from affluence to poverty? If such be the happiness of Christianity, many will perhaps say—may I be allowed an exemption from such blessedness!
But let us beware of conclusions formed in haste, or from a partial consideration of the subject. Let us look abroad on real life, and reflect on the state of many within our own circle of acquaintance. Have we never witnessed the change in temper and conduct of known characters, which has been produced by a sudden change of circumstances? Have we not seen some
who, when in humble life, conducted themselves with decorum and propriety, when raised by a sudden increase of wealth, elated by the change, assuming airs of superiority, and neglecting the friends with whom they had been accustomed to associate? On the other hand; have we not beheld those whom Providence had blessed with abundance, and who thought them. selves, from this circumstance, raised above the common level of their fellow citizens, when stripped of their possessions, by some unforeseen calamity, so depressed and humbled, as to become more amiable-more courteous, and more useful than they had ever been in the days of their prosperity.
Were we to see a young man, the only son of a wealthy, a fond and indulgent father, who was permitted to follow the guidance of his fancy and passions—who had no check to his inclinations-no control exercised over his appetites; would we pronounce such a young man “happy?” Would we not predict his certain ruin? Would it require the aid of prophecy to foretel his eventual wretchedness as the inevitable consequence of the prostration of all principle? On the other hand, were we to observe a young man, whose ardent feelings were under the control of prudence-whose judgment chastened the impulses of desire, and kept them in due and salutary subjection--who under the guidance of wise and virtuous parents, listened respectfully to their advice-submitted his will to theirs, and in all his conduct observed the rules of probity and decorum--would we not at once say, “ that youth is in the true path to honour, esteem, and happiness ?” Blessed is such a character, even under the chastening hand of a wise and affectionate parent-under the “ law" of wholesome discipline and authority. Still more blessed, however, is the man who is “chastened by his heavenly Father,” and who at the same time is “ taught out of his law.” In the subsequent part of these reflec- . tions, these two points will be illustrated and improved.
I. The chastenings of Divine Providence are intended for our benefit, and are calculated to produce this effect when rightly considered. But it will perhaps be asked, “is this their certain, their universul effect?” This we do not affirm. On the contrary, they have an opposite influence upon impenitent, obdurate, and unsanctified hearts. These convert into poison the most salutary medicines. They grow hard under correction. They abuse the mercies of heaven. Prosperity hardens them-adversity sours them. Do the impe. nitent and unbelieving live at their ease? They forget Godthey think only of indulging their sensual desires; a black ingratitude is the return they make to their Creator for all the blessings he confers on them. Does some severe calamity overtake them? They utter blasphemies against heaven. They
forget its favours and defy its vengeance. Thus every occurrence in life is to them an occasion of sin; and of consequence a means of hastening their perditions. Nothing softens their heart—nothing checks their presumption, or extinguishes the sparks of iniquity that are kindling in their bosoms.
Far different is the case of the true believer. At once fearing God and loving him sincerely, the devout Christian is deeply impressed with a recollection of all the mercies of heaven. He receives them, not as his right, but as favours. For these he is filled with gratitude. They become new ties which attach him to God-new motives for increased devotion.
In like manner, beneath the pressure of adversity he humbles himself under the mighty hand of God. He adores his chastisements; he turns them to profit. On some occasions he may forget himself—he may wander from the path of duty, and may stumble through weakness. But these remains of sin cannot long prevail over that sincere piety which has struck its roots deeply in his heart. It awakes at the first stroke of affliction. The love of God becomes the reigning principle of his soul. It controls his thoughts, his hopes, and his actions. And who can be in fear for a character like this? He enjoys the favour of his God he feels confident of his protection. Crosses, sufferings, adversity, nay, martyrdom itself, cannot shake his faith, or jeopardize his salvation. Nay more; all these things are made to turn to his advantage. All these things work together for good to those who love God.
These fruits of affliction we might fairly infer from the providence and the justice
, of our merciful Creator. That he watches over the whole system of universal nature that no event happens without his knowledge and permission through the wide extent of the universe, is a matter on which we are not permitted to doubt. Nor less are we assured that his eyes peculiarly regard the just. If not “a sparrow can fall to the ground without his knowledge, and if the very hairs of our heads are numbered," then surely no affliction can befal his children without the divine permission; and if so, to what end? Not surely because our heavenly Father delights in the misery of his frail dependant creatures. He knows their frame, he remembers they are dust. Shall not the judge of all the earth do right? Will he adjudge the same lot to the wicked and to the good ? Will he make no difference even in the present state between those who serve him, and those who serve him not?
Some difference there must be, and in what can it consist, unless that in the one case afflictions are attended with those inward supports and consolations—those assurances of divine love, in that “perfect peace, which keeps the heart and mind
in the love of Jesus Christ, and in fitting the soul for the higher joys of a future world.”
Yes, there is a difference, and a marked difference, in the effects of affliction on the evil and the good.
While the former are crushed beneath the strokes of severe adversity, the latter with a buoyancy which true piety can alone inspire, rise from this vale of affliction with renewed hope, and with more ardent aspirations after a state where the wicked cease from troubling, and where the weary are at rest. They find, by blessed experience, that afflictions are calculated to repress the ascendancy of their passions and appetites; to recal them from wandering after the world, to the path of holiness and virtue; to make them feel their own frailty and defects; to detach them from vain pursuits, and to increase their desire of heaven. These are effects of no inconsiderable value in the experience of the believer. They are blessings which our merciful Father scatters along our path to his mansion on high, and which prove, at once, his wisdom and his love, in every chastening that he sends.
1. The tendency of affliction is to repress the extravagance of passion and appetite. We are very frail as well as very cor. rupt beings; and our corruptions are never perfectly subdued in this world. We have “Aeshly lusts which war against the soul.” Even in the best Christians there is a perpetual combat between the flesh and the spirit. They are conscious that “in their flesh dwelleth no good thing.” “The good which they would, they do not, but the evil which they would not, that they often do;” “ they find a law in their members warring against the law of their minds, and sometimes bringing them into captivity to the law of sin in their members.” Wretched men,” they exclaim with the apostle, “ who shall deliver us from the body of this death?” Thanks be to God, they are sure of victory through the Lord Jesus Christ. But by what means is this victory to be obtained? Affliction is the chastening rod that pre-eminently serves to effect it. Our passions are often enfeebled without being subdued. They soon recover their former strength. It is necessary to curb them with a strong rein; and for this purpose nothing is more effectual than adversity. We do not pretend to say that prosperity and piety are incompatible. We sometimes find religion in its loveliest form, among the rich and great. But this state is surrounded with peculiar temptations; to resist which, peculiar grace appears to be indispensable.
Here occasions of sin occur almost daily; and it requires uncommon piety to resist the fascinations of fashionable vice and folly. There are few who are not willing and anxious to encounter those perils, perhaps without a just appreciation of their
danger, and without a just knowledge of their own characters. But our heavenly Father, who knows the frailty of his creatures, in mercy will not expose us to the trial which we ignorantly brave. He knows thy weakness, my brother; he sees that you would suffer shipwreck in the storm which you fearlessly encounter. He sees rocks and shoals hidden from your eyes, on which your slender bark might break and perish. He loves you, and perceives that were you to enjoy an uninterrupted course of prosperity, you would be in danger of losing the * pearl of great price.” He therefore sends you crosses and disappointments, to check the impetuosity of your passions to recal you to a sense of your best interests—to guard you from a thousand follies and vices, to which you would have been exposed, and from which you would not have abstained in the circumstances of temptation, to which prosperity would have led you.
A high station would have favoured your predisposition to pride; and riches would have exposed you to luxury, to dissipation and licentious associations. Had your health remained always firm and unimpaired, you would perhaps have forgotten the giver and preserver of life. A state of health, always precarious and sometimes impaired a moderate fortune-a humble station in society, perhaps has been wisely allotted you. With a temper and disposition such as yours, these circumstances have proved an excellent preservative against the vices of your age. Some misfortunes, and some trials have rendered your existence less pleasant; but they have preserved you from a greater danger-the loss of present peace, and everlasting happiness.
S. B. (To be continued.)
FOR THE PRESBITERIAN MAGAZINE. in Exposition of 1 Cor. 14, 15; connected with Strictures on one
or two Chapters of Dr. Griffin's Book on the Atonement, and several other Writers on the same Subject.
(Continued from p. 37.) The distinction of the sinner's ability and inability, into natural and moral, has been a subject of controversy; and in the discussion considerable warmth of temper has been exhibited. “ The question then about power (says Dr. G.), is really a vital one." I have long considered it of some importance, and shall throw into the public stock my sentiments upon the subject.
For years I maintained the affirmative of the question. And I acknowledge that I was influenced by my theological preceptor's opinion, who was decided, and warm, in favoar of the
Vol. II.-Presb. Mag.