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from our present state have given occasion, one of the first comforts which one neighbour administers to another, is a relation of the like infelicity, combined with circumstances of greater bitterness.'
But alas ! what can the repetition of distress avail her whose troubles are thought to be too personal, and too great to be lessened by comparison! What! must I then be silent ? No; humanity forbids the thought: the distress that I cannot remove, let me endeavour to alleviate ; or rather, let me attempt to direct my amiable querist to that God who is the sinner's friend, a very present help in trouble, and who never said to the seed of Jacob-Şeek ye me in vain.
Those depressions of guilt which create disquietude, are the natural consequences of sin. The soul alarmed by the stings of conscience, now perceives how detestable it is in the sight of him who is of purer eyes than to behold evil, and who cannot look on iniquity but with abhorrence. A sense of deserved
wrath stimulates the risings of despair, and leaves the soul without the least apparent prospect of forgiveness. Permit me, however, to remind you of those days and months in which the commission of sin was never fol. lowed by compunction; in which conscience, now replete with charges of guilt, suffered you to enjoy the pleasures of tranquillity without hinderance, though subject to the same condemnation which is now the sole ground of uneasiness. The remembrance of this tranquillity may indeed add pungency to grief already great: you will, nevertheless, lose nothing by the comparison, but find, on the contrary, that it will lead to the discovery of something adapted to relieve the mind from perplexity and sorrow.
The Almighty, who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will, generally brings the soul into a state of deep disquietude on account of sin, previous to the manifestation of pardoning mercy.
He killeth and maketh' alive: he woundeth that he may heal-he bindeth up the broken in heart. Though
he cause grief, he will not cast off for ever: he will have compassion according to the multitude of his mercies--weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.'
There are, undoubtedly, many exceptions to this rule. Some persons are drawn with loving kindness, by a discovery of divine benevolence to man in the astonishing work of redemption: others experience the same goodness in a way that cannot be described, because the work of the Holy Spirit has been so gradual as to leave no traces of his first operations on the mind. In each case, however, the Lord acts as a sovereign, distributing his own favours when, and to whom he pleaseth; and
cannot account for the various dispensations of his grace to sinners, we must rest satisfied while we gratefully rejoice in this certainty—that all are led to
see the want of something to procure their acceptance with God, distinct from what is either natural or acquired, before a Saviour can be desirable : and if, to this end, it be your lot to feel much
of the agony of guilt, it is nevertheless your duty to be thankful: as the mercy hereafter to be enjoyed will not be lessened by the pain that precedes it.
Your imagining that no permanent good can arise from the incident which first led you to contemplate your conduct and your character, merely because trivial in itself, and no way connected with the glory of God or the happiness of man, is a conclusion derogatory to infinite wisdom, and implicitly limits the Holy One of Israel. The Almighty is never at a loss for means to accomplish his own designs. He can overrule, for this
purpose, those that are apparently the most trifling, or, in reality, the most atrocious. “His thoughts are not our thoughts ; nor our ways his
ways. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are his ways higher than our ways, and his thoughts than our thoughts.'
Little did Zaccheus think that his ardent curiosity to see Jesus, was in order to exalt the riches of grace in pardoning one who was,
though little in stature, the greatest of sinners; much less that, on the same day, he was to become as conspicuous for restitution and benevolence as he had formerly been for extortion and oppression. Saul of Tarsus never imagined that his diabolical errand to Damascus would be the occasion of his boldly preaching the faith he purposely went to destroy. Nor the thief, when perpetrating the detestable crime for which he suffered on a gibbet, that he was to expire in such circumstances and in such company; or that he was then committing an act for which he was afterwards to be exhibited as a spectacle to angels and to men; that both might have incontestable proof, that he whom the seifrighteous Pharisees despised and rejected, was, in the last agonies of death, what he always professed to be in his life-the Saviour of sinners!
That state of darkness and of distress which you think peculiar to yourself, is common to every penitent when a sense of interest in divine forgiveness is withheld. Few persons