صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني
[ocr errors]

call for profound admiration and grateful obedience: but the Apostle Paul bitterly complains that the ancient world, with all their boasted wisdom and acuteness, knew not God; and, moreover, that they were without excuse, because they did not glorify him with thankfulness, after that he had clearly made known to them his eternal power and godhead by the things which he had created.

But perhaps extraordinary blessings are often productive of eminent piety; and though it be true, that during the enjoyment of the good things of Providence in their ordinary, smooth, and uninterrupted course, fallen human nature is not disposed to think much either of the wise Contriver, the benevolent Governor, or the awful Judge of mankind, perhaps it may be hoped that uncommon interferences of the Divine goodness, where blessings are poured out in abundance on ungrateful men, should be followed by a material amendment, both of their internal tempers and their external obedience. Yet here, alas! though some transient emotions of praise and thanksgiving may be excited in the glow of success and prosperity, woful experience proves that too often these bountiful dispensations of the Creator are

found to serve only as occasions to the creature for shewing the greater alienation of his heart from God, and filling up the measure of his iniquity.

On the contrary, however, we do find, that when such special interferences of Providence take place as in Scripture language are called judgments, the inhabitants of the earth sometimes learn righteousness in other words, that signal afflictions and chastisements effect that, both for individuals and nations, which the most bountiful displays of kindness and compassion had failed to produce.

The holy Scriptures, both in regard to precept and example, are exceedingly full to these points; namely the great danger of remarkable prosperity, on the one hand; the blessed fruits of sanctified afflictions, on the other. "Before I was afflicted I went astray; but now have I kept thy word." -Happy the man whom God correcteth! And frequently the scriptural expressions are such as to intimate that the trial of afflictions is an essential part of the discipline of the righteous: for example-" Many are the afflictions of the righteous;" and, "As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten; "I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction."

[ocr errors]

Also, abundance of wealth and power, great prosperity, miraculous deliverances, are constantly represented as the almost certain prognostics of backsliding and decay of the moral and religious principle. Thus, when men have eaten, and are full, they are told to beware lest they forget the Lord their God and Moses explicitly addresses the Israelites, "I know that after my death ye will utterly corrupt yourselves, when God shall have brought you into the land flowing with milk and honey, and ye shall have eaten, and filled yourselves, and waxed fat." And so in particular instances. It was in the King of Assyria's dungeon that Manasseh, bound with fetters, learned at last those lessons which probably he never would have learned in his own palace at Jerusalem. And, in like manner, I observe it was in distress that the pious Jacob vowed his memorable vow of deep humility, and entire dependence on the Divine will. While this good Patriarch was at home, provided with every thing he could want, and pampered by an indulgent mother, we read of much evil that he did; I cannot say of any good: and I observe, that his conversion from the ways of a wicked world to serve the living God, appears

to have been brought about entirely by afflictions: it took place when he was driven from home; when lying in the field, with a stone for his pillow; and afraid for his life, on account of the the fury of his brother Esau.

Now, though Revelation had been explicit on these points only as to the fact, that were enough. We ought not only to be content with the salutary instruction, but to receive it with gratitude. We are, however, by no means left in the dark in this matter. In almost every page of Scripture we are taught how it is that some cross is needful as long as we live; namely, to keep us in our right place, dependent on our Maker: for, as soon as we cease to feel our dependence on Him, and experience only what is agreeable to our own humour, there is that in human nature which will soon say, Who is the Lord ?-there is that which will soon excite the motions of sin, "till they bring forth fruit unto death."-Neither does this rebellious independent spirit discover itself only in unconverted men, during their natural state of alienation from God. It appears, more or less, in the very best of men; in who have made persons the greatest progress in religion and virtue: inso

[ocr errors]

much, that if they have few outward afflictions to be the means of teaching them the necessary lessons of humility, they generally experience a larger allotment of inward trials on that very account. It seems, therefore, that, either of one sort or the other, there must be some afflictive visitations from our heavenly Father; which are, indeed, gracious and compassionate dispensations, intended to shew men how much they need to have their eyes opened from vain delusions to see the great truths of religion, and their affections changed from carnal worldly desires, to the relish of heavenly and spiritual enjoyments.-The case of St. Paul is very much to our purpose here, as a striking example of the dealings of God with his dearest favourites. The whole life of this great Apostle, though a chosen vessel, and highly honoured of God, and though one, who in the cause of his Master never counted even his life dear to him, was a series of severe and perilous discipline. It is remarkable, that on the very entrance to his office, in order that he might count the cost, and in no way misapprehend the nature of his commission, he was to be expressly informed how much he had to suffer for the sake of his

« السابقةمتابعة »