Obrázky na stránke

headl; and does not fact justify this language ? The fact is, no one, unless upheld and preserved by special grace, can bear a great flow of outward prosperity, without extreme hazard. It is enchanted ground, the infected atmosphere of which is soporific, inducing first gentle and easy slumbers, and then profound sleep, in which we become insensible at once, to our danger and our true interest ; and, if not aroused by the voice that wakes the dead, we fall an easy prey to our ever vigilant spiritual enemies.

Thirdly, Another thing equally certain as the two preceding, is this : Many things evil in themselves, and repugnant to our feelings, may yet be good for us ; because they may operate favourably on our best interest. This is true of pains, and sufferings of every kind. Though evil in their own nature, and what consequently no one can choose for their own sake; yet, when viewed in a right light, and received with suitable dispositions of mind, like appropriate and well-timed corrections, they are highly beneficial. "Chastisements, indeed they all are, especially to the people of God; and although“ no chastisement for the present, seemeth to be joyous, but grievous, nevertheless afterward, it yieldeth the peaccable fruit of righteousness to them that are exercised thereby." 64 God chastens 119 for our profil, that we may be partakers of his holiness." Inspired history records many instances in which the greatest outward evils have been made, the occasion of the greatest spiritual good. “ We glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation worketh patience, and patience experience, and experience hope.” Indeed, as afflictions are directly opposite to outward prosperity, in their nature ; so, under the blessing of God, they have an opposite tendency on the mind—While prosperity lulls the mind into a state of spiritual lethargy, in which it loses all proper relish for spiritual enjoyments, and all disposition for active duties, and lies exposed to every temptation, adversity makes us watchful. While prosperity, by intoxicating the mind with vain hopes of rest and happiness here, seduces it from God; adversity, by affording praetical demonstration of the vanity and instability of all sublunary enjoyments, sobers and corrects its extravagant imaginations, moderates its desires after earthly things, and leads it up to God. In a word, in connexion with the word of God, and under the direction of his Spirit, afflictions are a principal :means of carrying on and perfecting our Sanctification. By this shall the iniquity of Jacob be purged, and this is all the fruit--the taking away of sin." But,

Fourthly, No general rule can be laid down, which applies equally to all; for what is good for one, is not good for another. This remark proceeds upon that great diversity, which is found in the characters of men. If all men were alike in this respect, the discipline proper for one, would be proper for alt; but this is not the case. Descended from the same parent, and composed of the same materials, all men strongly resemble one another in the great outlines of character; but in their peculiar propensities and habits, in the:r predilections and antipathies, the degrees of their intellectual and moral attainments, and in various other respects, we scarcely find two men alike. To what cause this is to be ascribeå, it is of no consequence to inquire; the fact is unquestionabk.' Even in the household of faith, we see, with considerable uniformity in faith and character, not a little diversity in lioth; so that two christians cannot be found in every respect the saine. And the inference, in relation to the subject under considerátion, is obvious :-If the head of a family observing the peculiar temper and propensities of his children, perceives that each requires a different treatment; for the same reason,

but on a scale almost infinitely enlarged, a different conduct on the part of God is requisite towards men, And this, doubt. less is one reason, though not the only one, perhaps, of those numerous and great inequalities found in the outward conditions and circumstances of mankind.

Thus far we proceed with certainty ; but beyond this we cannot go. What peculiar mode of discipline is best suited to ourselves, as individuals ;-how much of good and how much of evil, and in what manner they should be inixed and blended, so as most effectually to promote our real welfare, we have not the means of ascertaining.

“ Who knows what is good for man in this life-all the days of this vain life which he spendeth as a shadow ?" Were God so far to indulge us as to permit us to choose our own lot; we should infallibly commit such mistakes as would be highly injurious, if not eternally ruinous to us. This is the doctrine we proposed to illustrate; and the truth of it will appear, if we consider what qualifications are requisite to enable us to judge with certainty in this case.

Three things seem indispensable, First, A perfect knowledge of our own hearts. ' Not only must we know in general that our hearts are depraved, but also the inveteracy of that depravity, the various ways in which it operates, and the particular infirmity or sin, whatever it be, which most easily besets. As christians, moreover, we must be fully acquainted with the present state of religion in our souls ; what progress it has made, whether it flourishes or declines, what evil dispositions and habits require to be subdued, and what graces languish and require to be succoured. In one word, we must have a thorough and minute acquaintance with our own characters: for without this, we are no


more competent to say what mode of treatment from God is best for us, than the patient, who knows neither his own constitution, nor the nature and progress of his disease, is competent to judge of the propriety of the regimen prescribed by his Physician. The dispensations of providence are, as we have repeatedly hinted, a sort of moral regimen, intended to correct and remove the malady of sin--and restore health and vigour to the soul; and are proper, or the contȚary, in proportion as they are adapted, or not adapted to answer this purpose; but how can we be competent to judge of their fitness, unless we fully understand the nature of this disease ? Total ignorance on this point, disqualifies us for judging totally, and partial ignorance partially. It is evident then, that a complete acquaintance with our own hearts, is indispensably requisite. But who possesses this complete knowledge of himself? Alas! through a culpable inattention to what is passing in our hearts, we all know much less of them, than we might have known; but those who by diligent self-examination and constant watchfulness, have made the greatest proficiency in this important branch of knowledge, are yet, as they will readily confess, far from having attained a perfect knowledge of themselyes. Indeed the heart is so profound. and in many of its operations, so subtle and intricate, that only He who knows all things, can perfectly comprehend it. heart is deceitful above all things—who can know it? I the Lord search the hearts.”

Secondly, We must also have a complete view of the whole scheme of Providence, and of the connexion of its several parts. That Providence is a scheme, of which all the parts are closely connected, it is not necessary to prove; but for this reason, we must grasp the whole, in order to judge correctly' of particular events. As when examining any complex piece of machinery (to illustrate a very great subject by a little one) we must take in, and comprehend the whole, before we can perceive the fitness and use of particular parts; so in this casę. Many parts of God's conduct in Providence appear, when viewed singly or alone, quite unaccountable, adapted to answer no valuable purpose whatever; which when considered in all their bearings, and pursued to their ultimate consequences, are found to be most wise and beneficial, calculated to answer the most important and gracious ends, and every way worthy of Himself. The history of His Providence affords many striking illustrations of this truth, though none more remarkable, on the whole, perhaps, than that which occurs in the life of Joseph. The first steps of that wonderful series of events, which issued in the exaltation of Joseph, and the preservation of the elect family and of the church, doubt.

6. The

Jess 'appeared dark, and intricate both to Joseph and his venerable parent; but the result completely-unfolded the mistery, and converted their fears into won:ler, gratitude, and joy. In like manner, could we penetrate the ultimate designs of God, all those dispensations of his hand, which wound our feelings---confound our reason, and stagger our faith-would appear quite in order, and, like Ilimself, “ holy, just and good.” But, in the present state at least, who can do this ? However, “s what we know not now, we shall know hereafter."

Lastly, In order to judge impartially of the conduct of providence, our minds must be completely freed from every prejudice or prepossession, which might biass the judgment. From the close connection between the moral and intellectual parts of our nature--the heart and the understanding-it is well known, that when any passion or prejudice possesses the former, it disturbs and prevents the operations of the latter. While under the dominion of such prejudices, we seldom take time to weigh all the circumstances by which our judgment should be regulated, and without a duc consideration of which that judgment cannot be correct; some we overlook-others we diminish-others magnify; and thus, by a process, often so · subtle as to escape our own observation, we impose upon ourselves, and become the willing though the unsuspecting dupes of their own inattention and precipitancy. This holds not in regard to the actions of men only, but also in regard to the conduct of Providence. When events occur, which cross our inclination, oppose our present interest, darken our prospects, and frustrate our designs ; perfect calmness of mind and entire submission to the will of God, as opposed to every degree of anger, fretfulness and despondency, are absolutely necessary to our forming a fair and impartial judgment of his conduct towards us. But how difficult this attainment, and how rarely is it attained! Some instances of this dignificed composure under afflictions, we have in Scripture; as in the Shunamite-and the Patriarch Job, under the first shock of his accumulated sufferings. But the temper and conduct of Jonah, ive fear, are more common; who when his gourd was smitten, thought he did well to be angry!” “ The foolishness of man preventeth his way, and his heart fretteth against the Lord.”

These hints, which we trust our readers will enlarge upon, amount, we think, almost to a demonstration of our total incompetency to say what is really good for us in this life. But if the proof from hence be incomplete, it is fully established by fact: for who is there that has not often chosen what was hurt. ful, and rejected what was useful and necessary ? To close our remarks, then let the conviction of this truth have its full effect on our minds. It may lead us to rejoice, that the dis


posal of our affairs, is not in our own hands, but iu the hands of God. That this is in fact the case, is certain. In the time, and place, and circumstances of our birth, we have no hand; after we grow up, the sphere of our action is very limited, and we can do nothing independently of God. At this, we surely need not repine ; for while we know not what is good for us, He knows perfectly; and if we choose Him as our portion, in Christ, and yield up ourselves to His will, He will choose our inheritance for us, and cause all things to work together for our good.

We are too apt, especially when in straitened and diffi. cult circumstances, to cherişli discontent, and view with envy, the superior condition and more prosperous circumstances of others. “ The spirit that is within us, leadeth to envy ;” and it was an eminently good man who confessed, “I was envious at the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked !" But a serious consideration of this truth, will tend to check the risings of this evil disposition. Are we sure that their prosperity is really good for them ? If circumstances were reversed, are we sure it would be really good for us ?-Let us be content with such things as we have; let christians especially cultivate this temper, since “ God hath said, I will never leave you, no never forsake

you.” If it please God to exercise us with painful and repeated afflictions, this subject, if duly considered, will promote submission to His will. --- AMictions spring not out of the dust, neither does trouble grow out of the ground.” Whatever our afflictions are, in their nature and degree, they are “ the cup which our Heavenly Father giveth us to drink, and shall we not drink it?” Pungent and distasteful as it may be, are we sure that it is not necessary ?--that it is not the very mode of discipline which our case requires ? --and that one less severe would not answer the purpose? Does God afflict willingly ? -or can he mistake in judging what is meet and proper for us?

A due consideration of this subject, moreover, will lead us to “ acknowledge God in all our ways.” To do this is His injunction ; and this subject discloses the ground of that injunction. If, indeed, “ He order all things for us,” we should feel our dependence in all things, acknowledge our dependence, and humbly and earnestly implore His guidance and blessing in all things. Happy for us could we do this, then he would direct our steps.

Not only will this subject lead us continually to a throne of grace, but also guide our supplications. In imploring spiritual blessings, the pardon of sin, and the influence of his Holy Spirit, we cannot be too importunate ; since of the absolute necessity of these we can have no doubt. In seeking higher

« PredošláPokračovať »