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Three remg. Petitions. F. Matth. 6. 15.
A small Book, with the, S. Prov. 30. 8. S. Psalm 19. 13.
verses printed in full, is M.
9. T. Psalm 51. 1. !
Doxology. W. Dan. 9. 19. S. Ephes. 3. 20.' 1. Matth. 6. 14. M.
in the press.
THE DUTIES OF THE CHRISTIAN IN. AND AFTER
IN AFFLICTION. In all afflictions there are four duties incumbent on those upon whom they are sent. The first is examination; the second submission ; the third diligence, and the fourth is. gratitude. The duty of examination is exceedingly important, because the Lord has something in view in all his dispensations--He doeth all things well. The fact that there is affliction, is sufficient to prove that there is need of it; and, if there be need of it, how important is it that we should know what the Lord would have us to do.' Until we know this, and until we seriously set ourselves to the remedy, we cannot expect that the affliction either can'or should be removed; for were it to be removed before the object had been attained, so far from being benefitted by the visitation, we would be much the worse for it-if it was not the savour of “ life unto life, it would be the savour of « death unto death.” In this view of affliction we must consider it as an involuntary means of grace and God generally sends it when the Christian begins to be negligent in the voluntary ones, or those which he has in his own hand. Does the Christian begin to “strengthen himself” and “forsake God;" then the Lord knocks away the artificial props and breaks the reed in which he trusted, and he comes back humbled to the throne of grace, seeking that true strength in which alone he can be strong. Does he begin to be wise in his own eyes, and hew out for himself a cistern of his own; then the Lord confounds him in his own wisdom and turns it into foolishness-He breaks the cistern so that it can hold no water, and his thirsty soul is at length constrained to run to that fountain of living water, that source of wisdom and consolation which had been sent to cheer our darkened world. In short when there begins to be a laxity in the believer's zeal' and a coldness in his affections, when he begins to live for himself and to relax his hold of the means of grace; then the Lord sends affliction, as an involuntary
means of grace, to make up for that which may have been neglected. In affliction, therefore, it is the first duty of the Christian to examine himself, and to see what it is that has been amiss, wherein he has come short, and what means of grace he has been neglecting.
When the duty of examination has been performed in a proper manner, there will be less fear of the duty of submission being neglected. There is no doubt a rebelliousness in the natural heart of man which is ever prone to question the kindness of a merciful visitation ; but if the believer should be enabled to see and to feel that the affliction is really necessary, he will have the less difficulty in frowning down the rebellious thought that the Lord delights in the affliction of his children; and even although we should not be able, at the time, to see what were the Lord's reasons for having thus hardly dealt with us, yet we should remember that though the ways of the Lord should sometime be hid in deep waters, yet they are not the less on that account fraught with mercy, and characterized with wisdom. When the affliction is over when the light of His countenance is again lifted up upon us, we may then be able to perceive both the wisdom and the mercy of the visitation—but although we should not, let us remember that now we see through a glass darkly; the physical eye is dull, and the eye of faith is weak, but in a future state we shall know, even as we are known, and then shall we be able to
say, “ It is good for me that I was afflicted.” Diligence is a necessary part of the believer's duty in affliction—when he has been able to perceive what it is that the Lord is contending with him for, it is then his privilege to be diligent. The same mercy which sent the visitation will, when the cause is removed, assuredly rebuke the destroyer, and again be gracious. Yet low seldom do the people of God look upon affliction in this light. Is there not too little faith, too much looking upon affliction as necessary and una-, voidable evils, even at the moment that we confess that they are in the hand of the Lord, and that they are sent by him?"
We are not to look upon affliction as punishment, but as. chastisement ; not as referring to the past so much as to the future, and, therefore, we may be said to have our afflictions in our own hands—the Lord will not afflict more than enough, and, as soon as his purposes are accomplished, he will afflict
But it must be observed at the same time, that, on the same principle, the Lord cannot, in mercy, withdraw the affliction until this be accomplished. Here, then, is an inducement to diligence in the time of affliction, that the Lord would assist by his Spirit in working both to will and to do of his good pleasure. Gratitude for afflictive dispensations is both a necessary
and incumbent duty, although it may
be a difficult one. Yet the difficulty arises from a want of faith. If the believer knew that it is in mercy that the Lord afflicts, then he must know also that he ought to be grateful ; but it is only when the believer feels that it is in love, that he also feels the gratitude. The believer who does not feel grateful for affliction, is like the silly child who dislikes the kind hand which administers to it a health-giving restorative. If we be grateful to God only for what is pleasing to flesh and blood, what thank have we? where is our faith? What is there here which God does not shew even to the unbeliever ?--even the ungodly receive a share of the temporal comforts and worldly prosperity of this present life? we be grateful to fod for these only, then we shew, of a truth, that we do not appreciate the goodness of God in bestowing upon us his covenanted mercies—and as far as we are not grateful to God for affliction, we practically shew that we are walking by sight and not by faith.
DUTIES AFTER 'AFFLICTION. WHEN the Lord has seen meet to remove affliction, then nearly the same duties are incumbent, although in rather a different order. They then stand thus—first gratitude ; second examination ; and third diligence and watchfulness.
Although, in the eye of faith, it may be true, that gratitude in affliction is more due than gratitude in prosperity; yet, in the present state of the church, the want of gratitude on the removal of any afflictive dispensation would argue the greater coldness in our heavenly feelings. Gratitude in affliction is a duty which acts against flesh and blood : but gratitude for the removal of afflictions is a duty to which we are excited even by our own self-love; and therefore it would bespeak an almost total want of faith to feel no gratitude for the absence of affliction. From whom do all our blessings flow? To whom are we indebted for every feeling of comfort with which we are blessed; and if it be from God, as we are bound to confess that it is, are we not destitute of even common gratitude if our hearts do not voluntarily ascend in feelings of acknowledgement to him who has bestowed them? It is verbial that we do not appreciate the value of our comforts until we are deprived of them, and, perhaps, on this ground, we may account for, although we cannot excuse, the want of gratitude for our common blessings. But on what ground shall we account for that degraded and heartless selfishness which, on the restoration of a blessing, of which we have been deprived, will sullenly and thoughtlessly receive it again without feeling one spark of gratitude kindled in our freezing bosom-from what can it arise but from the want of sufficient consciousness that all our blessings are from the Lord, and we have, at least, reason to suspect that all things are not right if we find that gratitude is not the predominant feeling of the heart on the removal of
affliction. Examination is, at least, as necessary, if not still more so, after the removal of afflịctions as during its continuance. In the latter case, the Lord is felt to be dealing with us as he may be expected to force that upon our attention, by means of the affliction, which may require to be sought for when the affliction is removed. When the Lord has lifted his afflicting hand from off us, we ought to feel as if some operation had been performed upon us; anxiously should we examine ourselves to see whether the effect which was intended has really been produced, or whether we have been hardened rather than improved : and how fearful will it be to be found, that instead of being for our improvement, it has rather tended to make us worse. There are then but two alternatives, either to remain for ever in our present degraded circumstances, far away from the true spirit of Christian perfection, and always declining farther and farther from the source of life or, by some still more grievous affliction, to be brought back as far as we have gone astray; for if the past affliction was not sufficient to overcome the obduracy of our hearts, if we be the children of God and not bastards, then must the Lord afflict us until he has wrought in us a complete change both of heart and life.
Those who are not afflicted have great reason to be very jealous over themselves, because their circumstances suppose either that they do not require affliction, or that requiring it, they are “let alone."
After the removal of affliction we have also great cause for diligence and watchfulness. If, as we may expect, the Lord has indeed wrought in us a change for the better by the visitation of affliction, let us then be most wary in our walk and conversation, lest our past afflictions should be only the prelude of a more fearful calamity. It is not at the time that we are most apt to wander from God, it is afterwards. Our feelings may be like the seed sown on the stony ground, which at first sprang up but afterwards withered away. Pharoah, on the infliction of every several plague, repented and thought he would do better for the time to come; but when the feelings had subsided, it appeared evident that his heart was still unchanged. Let us beware, lest a similar fate await us. “He that being often reproved hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be cut off, and that without remedy.”
We cannot conclude these remarks without making one application to the circumstances of the nation. Our sins and our iniquities have mounted over our heads. The sins of the nation have called aloud for vengeance, and it did come. What was our duty as a nation and as individuals ? While the destroying angel lifted up his hand against us, he did so at the command of God the nation should then bave bowed its head and worshipped. As a nation, we ought instantly to have humbled ourselves in deep submission. Yet was this done ? Was not the idea of our affliction coming directly from the hand of God ridiculed in our national parliament, and has not the high and blasphemous example been followed by others throughout the country? Can we say that the nation has examined itself in order to discover what was wrong? Alas, we cannot. It may be that the people of God have endeavoured to perform their duties in this matter, yet how remissly have even they done so ? Ye are the salt of the earth, said the Lord to his disciples, and so must they be regarded still. The Lord has been pleased, in some degree, to stay the pestilence which has been devastating our land, yet how differently must it leave the children of God and the children of the world. To the one it has been the savour of life unto life, to the other it has been the savour of death unto death. If it has not been the means of improving them, it must have had the effect of hardening them in sin. Let each of our readers then examine himself-let him ask what has been its effect upon his own heart. Let him inquire, have I become more habituated to the thoughts of death, without being in a corresponding degree drawn towards him who has already conquered death? Have I become more accustomed to the sight of widows and orphans, and bereaved parents and friends, without being also induced to prepare for similar chastisement? Let these things sink deep into our hearts, and let pur self-examination, our diligence, and our watchfulness not be discontinued, because the Lord appears to be lifting his