« AnteriorContinuar »
hibit him as a proof of its superiority. “ The arrows of the Almighty,” said he, “ are within me, the poison whereof drinketh up my spirit; the terrors of God do set themselves in array against me.” His friends were indeed mistaken in supposing that these things could not have befallen him if he had not been, notwithstanding fair appearances, in reality wicked; yet they said many things well worthy of his attention, and not less so of ours; and it is particularly the design of Elihu, who waited till all the others had spoken, to vindicate the conduct of the divine Providence, and to clear it from unfounded imputations- Behold,” saith he, “ God exalteth by his power; who teacbeth like him? who hath enjoined him his way, or who can say, thou hast wrought iniquity? He will not lay upon man more than right, that he should enter into judgment with God (should have any just cause of complaint against him). Although thou sayest thou shalt not see him, yet judgment is before him, therefore trust thou in him." And we have, towards the conclusion of the story, Joh's return to that temper and coniluct, in which it had been said to his praise that he had not sinned nor charged God foolishly- I have uttered that I understood not, things too wonderful for me which I knew not wherefore I abhyr myself, and repent in dust and ashes."
And such ignorance and folly, my brethren, will be justly imputable to us, if, when under God's afflicting hand, we suffer ourselves, through the influence of ungoverned passion, to think and speak as if it were possible that our Maker could do us wrong. But although we may not commit the extravagance of quarreling with him for giving us existence, or of
wishing the day might perish wherein we were born, yet when he takes from us the desire of our eyes, and destroys the foundation of our fondest hopes, is it not difficult to exclude altogether such thoughts as these? Why did the Author of my being give me affections calculated to become sources of the purest delight, and yet make them so many avenues through which pain and sorrow may enter my bosom and wound it the more deeply? Has he placed within my embrace, that which twines about my heart by the closest and most endearing ties, only that by tearing them asunder he may cause it to bleed at every pore ? Does he commit to parental affection a fair and tender plant, to be cherished and reared to maturity amidst cares and hopes and fears of the most interesting nature, and yet after all command it to fade away in my hands ? Is this what I might expect from him whom I am taught and encouraged to recognise under the character of a Father? But be silent, murmuring lips; be still, rebellious thoughts-have we any claim upon him for what he bestows? Or shall he not do what he will with his own? To what purpose these complaints? Will they bring back from the gates of the grave, or prevail on the sovereign Arbiter of life and death to recal the sentence already carried into execution? Should it be according to thy mind ? No, it should not, it shall not. All the strife must end in unconditional submission. Such however is not the temper with which we ought to meet his dispensations, whose will is not only wholly uncontrollable but good. It is not the sullen subjection with which we would bend before the mandates of an arbitrary tyrant, but that calm and filial acquiescence which considers all its interests as in the hands of consummate
wisdom and everlasting mercy, and is content to remain ignorant now, of what shall be perfectly known hereafter. When the prophet saw the Shunamite woman approach, and (apprehending from her unexpected visit that some calamity had befallen her,) sent his servant in haste to inquire—"Is it well with thee? is it well with thy husband ? is it well with the child ?--she answered " It is well." We know too who it was that said, when agonising nature could scarcely sustain the conflict- Father! if this cup may not pass from me except I drink it, thy will be done." If we were permitted to choose according to the impulse of our natural feelings in a case where they are so powerfully awakened, as our choice would always be one way, we should often greatly err. God only knows whether the fond expectations we have built upon retaining what he thinks proper to withdraw would bave been realised. If this knowledge were imparted to us, might we not when our children are taken away, struck with the foresight of what was to befal them, truly say, " it is well." We mourn, perhaps immoderately mourn, when they are gone, but what is this compared with the pangs of a broken heart, occasioned by their vicious or unduti. ful conduct? Is any sorrow like unto this sorrow? Let me here call your recollection to a circumstance or two in the history of David. When a favourite child was sick, he showed all the marks of excessive grief-he fasted and lay all night upon the earthhe refused to rise-he refused to eat-if his child were but spared, this were the greatest favour a gracious God could confer on him. This was not granted. But he had another son who grew up to manhood with all the graces of person and address-his
delight, his darling. And shall we for a moment compare his feelings on the former occasion with the wound inflicted by the ingratitude, disobedience, and rebellion of the favourite? Can we read without strong emotions of sympathy the bitter, the heartrending expressions in which he deplored his fate? Are we not ready to say, for the unhappy father, that if Absalom had been taken away before he was capable of such degenerate and infamous conduct, it had been well? In another respect the conduct of David deserves to be approved and imitated. During the sickness of his child, he felt all the anxiety natural to a fond parent—but when the fatal crisis was past, he arose from the earth, washed and anointed hinself, partook of refreshment, changed his apparel, and came into the house of the Lord and wor. shipped-no better expedient than the latter for checking immoderate grief; which, independently of religious considerations, is as unavailing and unbecoming on the one hanı!, as a total insensibility would be shocking and unnatural on the other.
When reflections of this nature have had their proper influence—when we are convinced that submission is both our wisdom and our duty, our minds will be in a disposition for receiving the benefit of these painful visitations; for that they are sent with a kind and gracious design no believer in the superintending providence, the consummate rectitude, and unchangeable benevolence of the Deity, will doubt. So far from this, he will make the very frailty and instability of his present enjoyments a ground for the expectation of better and more durable hereafter. If all the happiness which our Maker intended for us, and of which he has made us capable, were limited
to the relations and possessions of the present state, there might be some reason to tax him with unkindness in suffering it to be so frequently interrupted. If he had not designed to open to us the prospect of obtaining, in a state of improvement and permanence, the repossession of the blessings which he now calls upon us to resign, he would not have framed our nature with such a keen sensibility to their loss, as must serve only to give us exquisite pain without any possible benefit. The anguish arising from the wound is then the very preparative for its cure--it raises our thoughts at once from earth to heaven, and ought to change our complaints into thanksgivings—thanksgivings that we are not, for want of such seasonable discipline, suffered to forget our dependence upon God, and to experience the far more bitter effects of folly and thoughtless
66 We have had fathers of our flesh who corrected us, and we gave them reverence shall we not much rather be in subjection to the Father of our spirits," who chasteneth us that we may be partakers of his holiness here, and be prepared for the everlasting enjoyment of his favour hereafter? This is no illusion, but a solemn, serious reality. I confidently appeal to the experience of such of you, my friends, who have been called to the trial (for I know it from my own) whether the loss of a beloved child has not, if I may so speak, left a tender place in your heart, which rendered it peculiarly sensible to religious impressions—whether you have not, in this, found cause of devout gratitude, and been the more disposed to acknowledge the providence of God in every other event of your lives, and the more ready to wait all his will concerning you and yours with placid and