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months and years of ease and pleasure; but when the soul is melted in this furnace of painful sufferings, it more easily receives some divine stamp, some lasting impression of truth, which the words of the preacher and the book of God had before inculcated without success, and repeated almost in vain. Happy is the soul that learns this lesson thoroughly, and gains a more lasting acquaintance with the evil of sin, and abhorrence of it, under the smarting stroke of the hand of God. Blessed is the man whom thou correctest, O Lord, and teachest him the truths that are written in thy law; Ps. xciv. 12.
3. Pain in the flesh teaches us also "how dreadfully the great God can punish sin and sinners when he pleases, in this world, or in the other." It is written in the song of Moses, the man of God; Ps. xc. 11. According to thy fear, so is thy wrath, that is, the displeasure and anger of the blessed God is as terrible as we can fear it to be; and he can inflict on us such intense pains and agonies, whose distressing smart we may learn by feeling a little of them. Unknown multiplications of racking pain, lengthened out beyond years and ages, is part of the description of hellish torments, and the other part lies in the bitter twinges of conscience, and keen remorse of soul for our past iniquities, but without all hope. Behold a man under a sharp fit of the gout or stone, which wrings the groans from his heart, and tears from his eye-lids; this is the hand of God in the present world, where there are many mixtures of divine goodness; but if ever we should be so wilfully unhappy as to be plunged into those regions where the almighty vengeance of God reigns, without one beam of divine light or love, this must be dreadful indeed. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God; Heb. x. 31. to be banished far off from all that is holy and happy, and to be confined to that dark dungeon, that place of torture, were the gnawing worm of conscience never dies, and where the fire of divine anger is never quenched; Mark ix. 43.
We who who are made up of flesh and blood, and interwoven with many nerves and muscles, and membranes, may learn a little of the terrors of the Lord, if we reflect that every nerve, muscle, and membrane of the body is capable of giving us most sharp and painful sensations. We may be wounded in every sensible part of nature; smart and anguish may enter in at every pore, and make almost every atom of our constitution an instrument of our anguish. Fearfully and wonderfully we are formed; Ps. cxxxix. 14. indeed, capable of pain all over us; and if a God should see fit to punish sin to its full desert, and penetrate every atom of our nature with pain, what surprising and intolerable misery must that be? And if God should raise the wicked out of their graves to dwell in such sort of bodies again, on purpose to shew his just anger against sin in their pun
ishment, how dreadful, beyond expression, must their anguish be through the long ages of eternity? God can form even such bodies for immortality, and can sustain them to endure everlasting agonies.
Let us think again, that when the hand of our Creator sends pain into our flesh we cannot avoid it, we cannot fly from it, we carry it with us wheresoever we go: His arrows stick fast in us, and we cannot shake them off; oftentimes it appears that we can find no relief from creatures: And if by the destruction of ourselves, that is, of these bodies, we plunge ourselves into the world of spirits at once, we shall find the same God of holiness and vengeance there, who can pierce our souls with unknown sorrows, equal, if not superior, to all that we felt in the flesh. If I make my bed in the grave, Lord thou art there; Ps. cxxxix, 6. thy hand of justice and punishment would find me out.
What a formidable thing it is to such creatures as we are, to have God, our maker for our enemy? That God, who has all the tribes of pain and disease, and the innumerable host of maladies at his command! He fills the air in which we breathe with fevers and pestilences as often as he will: The gout and the stone arrest and seize us by his order, and stretch us upon a bed of pain Rheumatisms and cholics come and go wheresoever he sends them, and execute his anger against criminals. He keeps in his hand all the various springs of pain, and every invisible rack that can torment the head or members, the bowels or the joints of man: He sets them at their dreadful work when and where he pleases. Let the sinner tremble at the name of his power and terror, who can fill both flesh and spirit with thrilling agonies; and yet he never punishes beyond what our iniquities deserve. How necessary is it for such sinful and guilty beings as we are, whose natures are capable of such constant and acute sensations of pain, to have the God of nature our friend and our reconciled God?
4. When we feel the acute pains of nature, we may learn something of the exceeding greatness of the love of Christ, even the Son of God, that glorious Spirit, who took upon him flesh and blood for our sakes, that he might be capable of pain and death, though he had never sinned. He endured intense anguish, so make atonement for our crimes. Because the children whom he came to save from misery were partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself took part of the same, that he might suffer in the flesh, and by his sufferings put away our sins; Heb. ii. 14. Happy was he in his Father's bosom, and the delight of his soul through many long ages before his incarnation: But he condescended to be born in the likeness of sinful flesh, that he might feel such smart and sorrows as our sins had exposed us to. His innocent and
holy soul was incapable of such sort of sufferings till he put on this clothing of human nature, and became a surety for sinful perishing creatures.
Let us survey his sufferings a little. He was born to sorrow, and trained up through the common uneasy circumstances of the infant and childish state till he grew up to man: What pains did attend him in hunger and thirst, and weariness, while he travelled on foot from city to city, through wilds and desarts, where there was no food nor rest? The Son of man sometimes wanted the common bread of nature, nor had he where to lay his head. What uneasy sensations was he exposed to, when he was buffeted, when he was smitten on the cheek, when his tender flesh was scourged with whips, and his temples were crowned with thorns, when his hands and his feet were barbarously torn with rude nails, and fastened to the cross, where the whole weight of his body hung on those wounds? And what man or angel can tell the inward anguish, when his soul was exceeding sorrowful unto death, and the conflicts and agonies of his spirit forced out the drops of bloody sweat through every pore. It was by the extreme torture of his nature that he was supposed to expire on the cross; these were the pangs of his atonement and agonies that expiated the sins of men.
"O blessed Jesus! what manner of sufferings were these? And what manner of love was it that willingly gave up thy sacred nature to sustain them? And what was the design of them, but to deliver us from the wrath of God in hell, to save our flesh and spirit from eternal anguish and distress there? Why was he made such a curse for us, but that he might redeem us from the curse of the law; Gal. iii. 13. and the just punishment of our own iniquities?"
Let us carry our thoughts of his love, and our benefit by it, yet one step further: Was it not by these sorrows, and this painful passion, that he provided for us this very heaven of happiness, where we shall be for ever freed from all pain? Were they not all endured by him to procure a paradise of pleasure, a mansion of everlasting peace and joy for guilty creatures, who had merited everlasting pain? Was it not by these his agonies in the mortal body which he assumed, that he purchased for each of us a glorified body, strong and immortal as his own when he rose from the dead, a body which has no seeds of disease or pain in it, no springs of mortality or death? May glory, honour and praise, with supreme pleasure, ever attend the sacred person of our Redeemer, whose sorrows and anguish of flesh and spirit were equal to our misery, and to his own compassion.
5. Another lesson which we are taught by the long and tire
some pains of nature, "is the value and worth of the word of God, and the sweetness of a promise, which can give the kindest relief to a painful hour, and soothe the anguish of nature." They teach us the excellency of the covenant of grace, which has sometimes strengthened the feeblest pieces of human nature to bear intense sufferings in the body, and which sanctifies them all to our advantage. Painful and tiresome maladies teach us to improve the promises to valuable purposes, and the promises take away half the smart of our pains by the sensations of divine love let into the soul. We read of philosophers and heroes in some ancient histories, who could endure pain by dint of reasoning, by a pride of their science, by an obstinacy of heart, or by natural courage; but a christian takes the word of a promise, and lies down upon it in the midst of intense pains of nature: and the pleasure of devotion supplies him with such ease, that all the reasonings of philosophy, all the courage of nature, all the anodynes of medicine, and soothing plaisters have attempted without success. When a child of God can read his Father's love in a promise, and by searching into the qualifications of his own soul, can lay faster hold of it by a living faith, the rage of his pain is much allayed, and made half easy. A promise is a sweet couch to rest a languishing body in the midst of pains, and a soft repose for the head or heart-ache.
The stoics pretended to give ease to pain, by persuading themselves there was no evil in it; as though the mere misnaming of things would destroy their nature: But the christian, by a sweet submission to the evil which his heavenly Father inflicts upon his flesh, reposes himself at the foot of God on the covenant of grace, and bears the wounds and the smart with much more serenity and honour. "It is my heavenly Father that Scourges me, and I know he designs me no hurt, though he fills my flesh with present pain: His own presence, and the sense of his love, soften the anguish of all that I feel: He bids me not yield to fear, for when I pass through the fires he will be. with me; and he that loved me, and died for me, has suffered greater sorrows and more anguish on my account, than what he calls me to bear under the strokes of his wise and holy discipline He has left his word with me as an universal medicine to relieve me under all my anguish, till he shall bring me to those mansions on high, where sorrows and pains are found no more.'
6. Anguish and pain of nature here on earth teach us "the excellency and use of the mercy-seat in heaven, and the admirable privilege of prayer." Even the sons of mere nature are ready to think of God at such a season; and they who never prayed before, pour out a" prayer before him when his chastening is upon them; Is. xxvi. 16. "A hour of twinging "aud
tormenting pain, when creatures and medicines can give no relief, drives them to the throne of God to try whether he will relieve them or no. But much more delightful is it for a child of God that has been used to address the throne of grace, to run thither with pleasure and hope, and to spread all his anguish before the face of his heavenly Father. The blessed God has built this mercy-seat for his people to bring all their sorrows thither, and spread them before his eyes in all their smarting circumstances, and he has been often pleased to speak a word of relief.
Our Lord Jesus Christ, when he dwelt in flesh and blood, practised this part of religion with holy satisfaction and success. Being in an agony he prayed more earnestly, and an angel was sent to strengthen and comfort him. Luke xxii. 43, 41. This was the relief of holy David in ancient times; Ps. xxv. 18. Look upon my affliction and my pain, and pardon all my sins. Ps. cxvi. 3, 4. The sorrows of death compassed me, and the pains of hell, or the grave took hold of me; then called I upon the name of the Lord; O Lord, I beseech thee deliver my soul. And when he found a gracious answer to his request, he acknowledges the grace of God therein, and charges his soul to dwell near to God; return to thy rest, O my soul, for the Lord hath dealt bountifully with thee. I was brought low and he helped me, he delivered my soul from death, and my eyes from tears; verses 6-8.
But we have stronger encouragement than David was acquainted with, since it is revealed to us that we have a Highpriest at this throne ready to bespeak all necessary relief for us there; Heb. ii. 18. A High-priest who can be touched with the feeling of our infirmities, who has sustained the same sorrows and pains in the flesh, who can pity and relieve his people under their maladies and acutest anguish; Heb. iv. 15. When we groan and sigh under continued pains, they are ready to make nature weary and faint: We groan unto the Lord, who knows the language of our frailty: Our High-priest carries every groan to the mercy-seat: His compassion works towards his brethren, and he will suffer them to continue no longer under this discipline than is necessary for their own best improvement and happiness.
O how much of this sort of consolation has many a christian learned and tasted, by a holy intercourse with heaven, in such painful seasons? How much has he learned of the tender mercies of God the Father, and of the pity and sympathy of our great High-priest above? Who would be content to live in such a painful world as this is, without the pleasure and relief of prayer; who would live without an interest at this mercy-seat, and without the supporting friendship of this advocate at the throne?