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If we were to find the path of life uniformly smooth before us, we should be apt to grow heedless as we pursued it. In proportion as we became incautious, our danger of stumbling would increase, and we should the more easily fall from having nothing to check us in our precipitate career. Therefore it is that the resigned Christian, "though troubled on every side, yet is not distressed; though perplexed, is not in despair;" because, "though the outward man perish, yet is the inward man renewed day by day." It is because the course of existence is rugged and intricate, that we are enabled to pursue it with greater safety. Its difficulties excite our apprehensions, awaken our caution, and arouse our vigilance. The rocks and declivities, the gulfs and precipices which so frequently lie before us, animate our prudence and keep us prepared against surprise. We thus frequently walk erect and safe amid mighty perils when we might even perish where there were comparatively none. As, in a wide and diversified prospect, the mountain, the cataract, the bleak and barren heath, by the mere effect of contrast with the smiling valley, the smooth and placid stream, the richly cultivated pastures, present to the eye a combination far more attractive than the most exact uniformity; so also in the life of man his real enjoyments are rendered more vivid by a few intervals of suffer
ing. Pain teaches him the value of ease. Occasional sorrow prepares him for the more lively feelings of joy. Intervals of sickness render more valuable the blessings of health. And thus it is by the wise admixture of pleasure and distress that our lives are rendered upon the whole more tolerable than they probably would be if there were nothing here to render us happy but the mere absence of suffering, and we had nothing to hope for beyond the fugitive enjoyments which this world supplies. It is that hope which "we have as an anchor of the soul both sure and stedfast," that constantly gives a spur and elasticity to our joys which else they could not know, and extracts its poison from the sting of suffering; since it carries us onward from present pains to ideal pleasures, and by buoying up the mind with grateful expectations of what may ensue, renders it less sensibly affected with what really is. Therefore it is that "the heart is glad," even amid the severest agitations of this mortal state. Our flesh too" shall rest in hope”—what hope? that "He will show us the path of life in whose presence is fulness of joy, and at whose right hand there are pleasures for evermore."
Though indeed it be true that we have our fears as well as our hopes, still we shall generally, nay, almost universally, find among good men, the former giving place to the latter, or incidentally
breaking out only upon sudden and trying emergencies. Our sufferings then in this life are abundantly counterbalanced by the hopes derived to us of imperfect blessings here, of perfect and everlasting blessings hereafter. Therefore "let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing as unto a faithful Creator." "Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us."
In considering the affection exhibited by God towards us in the chastisements to which he subjects his crcatures, let us recur to the Apostle's beautiful image of a natural father correcting his own natural offspring. We frequently observe that a wise and cautious parent will adopt considerable rigour towards his child if he discover in him a perverse and refractory spirit. And, indeed, the stronger his affection for him, the more vigilant will he be in watching those blemishes of character which in youth are too often the germs of future vices; and, in endeavouring to repel the incipient mischief before it can strengthen into an almost irresistible influence over the mind and habits. It is the parent's love only that prompts him to exercise this severity towards the child of his affections; and he exercises it, too, for no other
purpose than to render his offspring more deserving of that love, or to prevent his becoming less. And permit me to ask, among which families shall we find the best and most obedient children? Will it be among such as have been brought up under a strict and uniform discipline, from infancy to manhood, or among those who have been indulged in all the foolish wishes of their earlier, and in all the intemperate desires of their riper, years? The reply is evident. It is precisely then with similar views, according to the reasoning of St. Paul, that the Almighty chastens us; "for whom the Lord loveth he correcteth, even as a father the son in whom he delighteth." In punishing us for our transgressions, having our welfare only in view, he "dealeth with us as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?" And therefore it is that the most righteous man has no cause to murmur, but, on the contrary, has reason to rejoice in his tribulations; "for what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God." There is, moreover, if I may so say, a moral conveyed in every affliction, which we may observe and apply," to our great and endless comfort."
Every dispensation of the Almighty has its purpose, which cannot but be a good one: how
ever such dispensation may affect us, we have therefore only to look up to that omnipotent cause whence it proceeded, and cast ourselves with confidence on his mercy. That good men frequently suffer in this world more serious apparent evils than the obstinately wicked, is urged by the Apostle, rather as a ground of glorying than of regret; since, by chastening us, the Almighty manifests his fatherly correction of us; for, "as many as I love," saith the Lord, "I rebuke and chasten." He shows that we are objects of his care; and, by punishing our failings, confirms to us the designs of his providence, that “he hath no pleasure that the wicked should die," but rather, "that he should turn from his ways and live." We see too he spared not even his own son, whom the slightest taint of sin had never reached, and who therefore could deserve no punishment, but voluntarily came down from heaven among us "miserable sinners," and, whilst he poured out his blood to purchase us an inheritance eternal in the heavens, gave us the brightest example of patience under suffering, and of meekness under persecution, ever witnessed among the sons of men. the Saviour of mankind has pronounced those blessed, because afflictions have a natural influence to improve men's virtue, "who are persecuted for righteousness' sake." We remember, also, that he declared to his disciples, "blessed