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masses to relieve the souls of the dead. Upon our actual release from this flesh and blood, neither the guilt nor the power of sin shall attend the saints in their flight to heaven: All the spirits that arrive there are made perfect in holiness without new scourges, and commence a state of felicity that shall never be interrupted.
3. God has appointed pain in this world, "to exercise and try the virtues and the graces of his people." As gold is thrown into the fire to prove and try how pure it is from any coarse alloy, so the children of God are sometimes left for a season in the furnace of sufferings, partly to refine them from their dross, and partly to discover their purity and their substantial weight and worth.
Sometimes" God lays smarting pain with his own hand" on the flesh of his people, on purpose to try their graces: When we endure the pain without murmuring at providence, then it is we come off conquerors. Christian submission and silence under the hand of God is one way to victory. I was dumb, says David, and opened not my mouth, because thou didst it; Ps. xxxix. 9. Our love to God, our resignation to his will, our holy fortitude and our patience find a proper trial in such smarting seasons. Perhaps when some severe pain first seizes and surprizes us, we find ourselves like a wild bull in a net, and all the powers of nature are thrown into tumult and disquietude, so that we have no possession of our own spirits; but when the hand of God has continued us a while under this divine discipline, we learn to bow down to his sovereignty, we lie at his footstool calm and composed: He brings our haughty and reluctant spirits down to his foot, and makes us lie humble in the dust, and we wait with patience the hour of his release. Rom. v. 3, 4. Tribulation worketh patience, and patience under tribulation gives us experience of the dealings of God with his people, and makes our way to a confirmed hope in his love. The evidence of our various graces grows brighter and stronger under a smarting rod, till we are settled in a joyful confidence, and the soul rests in God himself. Sometimes he has permitted evil angels to put the flesh to pain, for the trial of his children; so Job was smitten with sore boils from head to foot by the malice of Satan, at the permission of God; but he knows the way that I take, says this holy man, and when he has tried me I shall come forth as gold; for my foot hath held his steps, through all these trials, neither have I gone back from the commandment of his lips: Job xxiii. 10-12.
At other times" he suffers wicked men to spend their own malice, and to inflict dreadful pains on his own children:" Look back to the years of ancient persecution in the land of Israel, under Jewish or heathen tyrants; review the annals of Great
Britain; look over the seas into popish kingdoms; take a view of the cursed courts of inquisition in Spain, Portugal, and Italy; behold the weapons, the scourges, the racks, the machines of torture and engines of cruelty, devised by the barbarous and inhuman wit of men, to constrain the saints to renounce their faith, and dishonour their Saviour. See the slow fires where the martyrs have been roasted to death with lingering torment: These are seasons of terrible trial indeed, whereby the malice of Satan and antichrist would force the servants of God, and the followers of the Lamb, into sinful compliances with their idolatry, or a desertion of their post of duty: But the Spirit of God has supported his children to bear a glorious testimony to pure and undefiled religion; and they have seemed to mock the rage of their tormentors, to defy all the stings of pain, and triumphed over all their vain attempts, to compel them to sin against their God.
One would sometimes be ready to wonder, that a God of infinite mercy and compassion should suffer his own dear children to be tried in so terrible a manner as this; but unsearchable wisdom is with him, and he does not give an account to men of all the reasons and the rules of his conduct. This has been his method of providence with his saints at special seasons, under the Jewish and the christian dispensations, and perhaps under all the dispensations of God to men, from the days of Cain and Abel to the present hour. Our blessed Lord has given us many warnings of it in his word by his own mouth, and by all his three apostles, Paul, Peter, and John: They that will live godly in Christ Jesus, shall suffer persecution; 2 Tim. iii. 12. Think it not strange therefore concerning the fiery trial; 1 Pet. iv. 12. The devil, by his wicked agents, shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days, but fear none of the things which thou shalt suffer: Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life;
Rev. ii. 10.
But blessed be God, that this world is the only state of such trials. As soon as the state of probation is finished, the state of recompence begins. Such hard and painful exercises to try the virtues of the saints, have no place in that world which was not made for a stage of trial and conflict, but a palace of glorious reward." Heaven is the place where crowns and prizes are distributed to all those blessed ones who have endured temptation," and who have been found faithful to the death. These sharp and dreadful combats with pain, have no place among conquerors, who have finished their warfare, and have begun their triumph.
4. Pain is sent us by the hand of providence to teach us many a lesson both of truth and duty, which perhaps we should never have learned so well without it." This sharp sensation
awakens our best powers to attend to those truths and duties which we took less notice of before: In the time of perfect ease we are ready to let them lie neglected or forgotten, till God our great master takes his rod in hand for our instruction.
SECT. IV. And this leads me to the fourth general head of my discourse, and that is, to enquire what are those spiritual lessons which may be learned on earth, from the pains we have suffered, or may suffer in the flesh. I shall divide them into two sorts, viz. Lessons of instruction in useful truths, and lessons of duty, or practical christianity; and there are many of each kind with which the disciples of Christ in this world may be better acquainted, by the actual sensations of pain, than any other way. In this world, I say, and in this only; for in heaven most of these lessons of doctrine and practice are utterly needless to be taught, either because they have been so perfectly well known to all its inhabitants before, and their present situation makes it impossible to forget them; or they shall be let into the fuller knowledge of them in heaven in a far superior way of instruction, and without any such uneasy discipline. And this I shall evidently make appear, when I have first enumerated all these general lessons both of truth and duty, and shewn how wisely the great God has appointed them to be taught here on earth, under the scourge and the wholesome discipline of pain in the flesh.
I. "The lessons of instruction here on earth, or the useful truths," are such as these:
1. Pain teaches us feelingly "what feeble creatures we are, and how entirely dependent on God our Maker for every hour and moment of ease.' 99 We are naturally wild and wanton creatures, and especially in the season of youth, our gayer powers are gadding abroad at the call of every temptation; but when God sends his arrows into our flesh, he arrests us on a sudden, and teaches us that we are but men, poor feeble dying creatures, soon crushed, and sinking under his hand. We are ready to exult in the vigour of youth, when animal nature, in its prime of strength and glory, raises our pride, and supports us in a sort of self-sufficiency; we are so vain and foolish as to imagine nothing can hurt us: But when the pain of a little nerve seizes us, and we feel the acute twinges of it, we are made to confess that our flesh is not iron, nor our bones brass; that we are by no means the lords of ourselves, or sovereigns over our own nature We cannot remove the least degree of pain, till the Lord who sent it takes off his hand, and commands the smart to cease. If the torture fix itself but in a finger or a toe, or in the little nerve of a tooth, what intense agonies may it create in us, and that beyond all the relief of medicines, till the moment wherein God shall give us ease. This lesson of the frailty of human nature
must be some time written upon our hearts in deep and smarting characters, by intense pain, before we have learned it well; and this gives us, for time to come, a happy guard against our pride and vanity. Ps. xxxix. 10. When David felt the stroke of the band of God upon him, and corrected him with sharp rebukes for his iniquity, he makes a humble address to God, and acknowledges that his " beauty, and all the boasted excellencies of flesh and blood, consume away like a moth: surely every man is vanity!" Ps. xxxix. 10, 11.
2. The next useful truth in which pain instructs us, is, "the great evil that is contained in the nature of sin, because it is the occasion of such inteuse pain and misery to human nature." I grant, I have hinted this before, but I would have it more powerfully impressed upon our spiaits, and therefore I introduce it here again in this part of my discourse as a spiritual lesson, which we learn under the discipline of our heavenly Father.
It is true indeed that innocent nature was made capable of pain in the first Adam, and the innocent nature of the man Jesus Christ suffered acute pain, when he came in the likeness of sinful flesh But if Adam had continued in his state of innocence, it is a great question with me, whether he or his children would have actually tasted or felt what acute pain is; I mean such pain as we now suffer, such as makes us so far unhappy, and such as we cannot immediately relieve. It may be granted, that natural hunger, and thirst, and weariness after labour, would have carried in them some degrees of pain or uneasiness, even in the state of innocence; but these are necessary to awaken nature to seek food and rest, and to put the man in mind to supply his natural wants; and man might have immediately relieved them himself, for the supplies of ease were at hand, and these sort of uneasinesses were abundantly compensated by the pleasure of rest and food, and perhaps they were in some measure necessary to make food and rest pleasant.
But surely if sin had never been known in our world, all the pain that arises from inward diseases of nature, or from outward violence, had been a stranger to the human race, an unknown evil among the sons of men, as it is among the holy angels, the sons of God. There had been no distempers or acute pains to meet young babes at their entrance into this world; no maladies to attend the sons and daughters of Adam through the journey of life; and they should have been translated to some higher and happier region, without death, and without pain.
It was the eating of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, that acquainted Adam and his offspring with the evil of pain. Or if pain could have attacked innocence in any form or degree, it would have been but in a way of trial, to exercise and illustrate his virtues; and if he had endured the test, and continued inno
cent, I am satisfied he should never felt any pain which was not over-balanced with superior pleasure, or abundantly recompensed by succeeding rewards and satisfactions.
Some persons indeed have supposed it within the reach of the sovereignty of God to afflict and torment a sinless creature: Yet I think it is hardly consistent with his goodness, or his equity, to constrain an innocent being, which has no sin, to suffer pain without his own consent, and without giving that creature equal or superior pleasure as a recompence. Both those were the case in the sufferings of our blessed Lord in his human nature, who was perfectly innocent: It was with his own consent that he gave himself up to be a sacrifice, when it pleased the Father to bruise him and put him to grief; Is. liii. 10. and God rewarded him with transcendent honours and joys after his passion, he exalted him to his own right-hand and his throne, and gave him authority over all things.
In general, therefore, we have sufficient reason to say, that as sin brought in death into human nature, so it was sin that brought in pain also; and wheresoever there is any pain suffered among the sons and daughters of men, I am sure we may ven ture to assert boldly, that the sufferer may learn the evil of sin. Even the Son of God himself, when he suffered pain in his body, as well as anguish in his spirit, has told us by his apostles, that our sins were the causes of it; he bore our sins in his own body, on the tree, and for our iniquities he was bruised, so says Isaiah the prophet; Is. liii. 5. and so speaks Peter the apostle; 1 Pet. ii. 24.
And sometimes the providence of God is pleased to point out to us the particular sin we are guilty of by the special punishment which he inflicts. In Ps. cvii. 17, 18, Fools are said to be afflicted, that is with pain and sickness because of their transgressions of riot and intemperance; their soul abhors all manner of meat, and they draw near to the gates of death. Sickness and pain over-balance all the pleasures of luxury in meats and drinks, and make the epicure pay dear for the elegance of his palate, and the sweet relish of his morsels or his cups. The drunkard in his debauches, is preparing some smarting pain for his own punishmenf. And let us all be so wise as to learn this lesson by the pains we feel, that sin which introduced them into the world is an abominable thing in the sight of God, because it provokes him to use such smarting strokes of discipline in order to recover us from our folly, and to reduce us back again to the paths of righte
“O blessed smart! O happy pain, that helps to soften the heart of a sinner, and melts it to receive divine instruction, which before was hard as iron, and attended to no divine counsel! We are ready to wander from God, and forget him amongst the