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pressed and disheartened, he expostulates with himself like David, “Why art thou so troubled, O my soul ? and why art thou disquieted within me?-O put thy trust in God, for I will yet give him thanks, which is the light of my countenance and my God.”
The true christian regards all the circumstances of life in altogether a different light from that in which they appear to persons who have none but worldly notions of good and evil; he takes our blessed Saviour's estimation of them for the real truth, and looks upon them, not with a view to what they are in themselves, but to what consequences they ultimately lead. For listen only to his catalogue of blessings and woes, “Blessed are they that mourn ;-blessed be ye poor ;-blessed are ye that hunger now;--blessed are ye that weep now ;--blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of Man's sake ; --rejoice ye in that day, and leap for joy.” “But woe unto you that are full! woe unto you that laugh now !-woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you!'
In this remarkable enumeration, the maxims of the world meet with the most decided contradiction; the things, which men are in the habit of calling good and evil, are transposed; that which was falsely calumniated with the name of evil, is elevated according to its merit, and dignified with the juster title of good; while that, which by its erring idolaters was flattered with the appellation of good, is obliged with shame to take a lower place, and to sink to the level of its real character as evil. And what is the principle, upon which this transposition has been made? It is one of the soundest wisdom. It is that of estimating things, not by a false and deceitful standard, but according to their true value.
Tell me then which is the more valuable of these two things! present affliction, which turns the heart to God, and is sustained by the hope of a future life, in which tears shall be wiped away from all faces for ever; or, present enjoyment, which banishes God from the mind, and has before it a prospect of a far more exceeding and eternal weight of misery? Which was the more enviable character, he who was daily enjoying the revelry and luxury of a sumptuous board, or he who was laid at his gate, full of sores, and desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table? Was not Daniel, in the den of lions, with God for his support, a happier man than Belshazzar, feasting and drinking wine in the midst of his thousand lords ? Who would not rather have been righteous Job, tried in the furnace of affliction, bereaved of bis children, in abject poverty and loathsome disease, than one of those ungodly men, whom David saw “in such prosperity, having riches in possession, in no seeming peril of death, but lusty and strong, coming in no misfortune like other folk, neither plagued like other men?” Who would not rather have been in the condition of Peter and John, who could say
" silver and gold have we none,” than of Judas with the bag of money, and his thirty pieces of silver? Who does not acknowledge that the holy saint and martyr Stephen, was more blessed, when upon his declaring that he saw the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God, his enemies stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord, and dragged him out of the city, and stoned him,-than wicked Herod, arrayed in royal apparel, and sitting on his throne, with the whole multitude shouting forth their blasphemous applauses, “It is the voice of a God, and not of a man?” But you
I have in these instances only compared the pious in affliction, with the wicked in prosperity. Are the possessors of worldly goods never religious, and the sufferers
under worldly calamity never irreligious ? lodeed, my brethren, I doubt not, nay more, I know that there are multitudes, whose outward circumstances are very flourishing, who yet have a very lively sense of the vanity and temporary nature of all these things, whose minds have not been by them diverted from the one thing needful, from the only true and everlasting source of happiness, but who hold them in the same just estimation as Solomon did all his great wealth and advantages, when he pronounced them to be but “vanity of vanities,” and who convert them into actual blessings, by consecrating them to the glory of God, and the welfare of their fellowcreatures.
Nor can I be ignorant, on the other hand, that there are numbers to whom affliction is indeed a sore curse, because it is not taken aright, and because the hand of him who sends it is not acknowledged, nor his purpose answered; numbers who cry not to the Lord in their distress, who kiss not the rod that chastises them, nor are thankful for the cautions which admonish them; numbers who stop their ears when called, whom warnings harden, and punishments make rebellious. The world presents examples both of such superior wisdom and of such pre-eminent folly. But generally, it is prosperity that alienates the heart from God, and adversity that brings it back; worldly goods make men forget the necessity of religion, worldly evils make them feel the want of its comforts; and in this case, Which is the real blessing? Which the real curse? How many are ready to confess that they should, probably, never have entertained one serious sentiment of religion, had they never known affliction; that in their happy day they were altogether worldly minded, devoted to all the frivolous pleasures of life, their whole attention absorbed by present enjoyments, thoughtless of God above, careless of a soul within, improvident of a life hereafter, and that the greatest mercy ever shewn them, was when the “delight of their eyes was taken away with a stroke,” when their hearts were humbled in the school of adversity, and their eyes were thus opened to perceive that the world is nothing, religion every thing. Blessed then are ye afflicted, if ye
have been awakened to a conviction of these most important truths: blessed are ye poor, if, lacking the pleasures and comforts to be purchased with earthly riches, ye have seen the necessity of being rich towards God, and of providing for yourselves bags that wax not old, a treasure in the heavens that faileth not. Wealth would soon pass away, if you had it, for no man may carry his riches away with