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God's wrath upon us by the most heinous iniquities, yet if we humble ourselves under his chastisements, and implore mercy at his hands, we shall, like him, be heard, and be made stupendous monuments of his power and grace. Did he ever regret the sufferings by which he was thus brought to enjoy peace with God? Neither shall we, whatever trials may be made subservient to this blessed end.]
But will the end really compensate for the means used to effect it ? Yes : and to prove that it will, we shall proceed to shew, II. The blessedness of knowledge, though gained by
afflictionSuch knowledge as we are speaking of, the knowledge of God in Christ Jesus, is indeed inestimable. Let us view it, 1. As compared with the price paid for it
[It is said by Solomon, “ Buy the truth, and sell it not." Now as we have before spoken of affliction as the means of bringing us to the knowledge of the truth, we may, in popular language, call it, The price paid for knowledge. Whatever then the affliction be, we do not hesitate to say that it is richly recompensed by the fruit which it produces.
Suppose the affliction to be of a temporal nature: we have been bereaved of our dearest friends and relatives; we have suffered the loss of all our property, and been reduced to very embarrassed circumstances; our health also has been destroyed, so that we are sinking under an accumulation of woes. Suppose our case as distressing as that of Job himself: still, if it have been sanctified to our eternal good, we can call it by no other name than, A blessing in disguise. Did Job, when brought to a deeper view of his own depravity, and to a richer discovery of the Divine perfections, regret the sufferings which had been overruled for that end? Did he not rather abhor himself for having judged too hastily respecting the designs of God; and cordially approve of those dispensations, which in his haste he had been ready to condemn? Thus shall we also do, when once we have “ seen the end of the Lordh." We may in our haste exclaim, “ All these things are against me:" but at last we shall testify of all God's most afflictive dispensations, as Joseph did, that “God meant them for goodi.”
But suppose the trials to be of a spiritual nature. These are yet far more afflictive: “A wounded spirit who can bear?' How grievously David was oppressed by them, we are informed
6 2 Chron. xxxiii. 11---13 Jam. v. 11. i Gen. 1. 20.
in many of his psalmsk --- But yet his testimony in our text was the real dictate of his heart. And we may ask of others, Were the wounds which brought you to the heavenly Physician too severe? Do you not number them amongst your richest mercies? Has not every loss been more than compensated in the acquisition of salvation; and every pang more than recompensed in the peace and joy to which, through the knowledge of Christ, you have attained ? It was a matter of just computation with the Apostle, that “ the sufferings of this present life (whatever they may be) are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us."]
2. As estimated according to its own intrinsic worth
(But who can ever rightly appreciate its worth? St. Paul “ counted all things to be but dross and dung in comparison of it.” We must be able to estimate all the miseries of hell, and all the glories of heaven, before we can form any estimate of its value; and, if we could ascertain the full importance of those, we should still be as far as ever from having a complete conception of the worth of spiritual knowledge; unless we could estimate also all the glory that will accrue to the ever blessed Trinity from the contrivance and execution of this stupendous plan, and the application of this salvation to a ruined world.] ADDRESS1. To those that are at ease
[How faint, for the most part, are your desires after spiritual knowledge! Whether you hear, or read, or pray, what formality pervades it all! But, if God have indeed designs of love towards you, you will be taught by the rod, what you will not learn without: “ He will cause you to pass under the rod, in order that he may bring you into the bond of the covenant.” And if lesser trials will not accomplish the purposes of his grace, he will visit you with heavier: “ from chastening you with rods he will scourge you with scorpions." Yet think not that a season of affliction is in itself favourable for the pursuit of spiritual knowledge: it is far otherwise: pains of body, and distress of mind, have a tendency to impede, rather than assist, the exercises of the mind. Ask those who are in deep affliction, Whether they find it easy to collect their thoughts, and fix them with energy on the concerns of their souls; and they will bear one uniform testimony, that health is the time to seek the Lord. Be persuaded then, now whilst you are at ease, to study “ God's statutes," and especially those which declare to us the way of salvation ordained for sinful
k See Ps. xxxviii. 148. and lxxvii. 3—9. and lxxxviii. 6, 7. and cii. 1—10.
Phil. ii. 8.
man. Know that there is no other knowledge of any importance whatever in comparison of this; and that, if even the most grievous sufferings should be welcomed as accessary to the attainment of it, much more must it deserve all the time and attention that can be bestowed upon it. You never need fear that you will hereafter have occasion to complain, that its fruits did not repay you for the cultivation of it.] 2. To those that are under any great affliction
[The rod under which you suffer, has a voice, to which you should listen with all possible attention m. It is sent to you in love and mercy. God designs to teach you, by means of it, many things which you would not so well learn without it. It may be that you are already instructed in the Gospel of Christ ; but yet there is much of which you are ignorant; and many things which you do know, need to be known by you in a very different manner. Even our blessed Lord himself, “ though he was a Son, learned obedience by the things which he suffered,” yea, and " was made perfect through sufferings." Be content to have God's work carried on and perfected in you in the same way: and be more anxious to obtain the benefit which your affliction is sent to impart, than to get rid of the affliction itself. If your tribulation work in you patience and experience and hope, learn to glory in it, and to number it amongst your richest blessings. And do not wait till the affliction is removed, to acknowledge God's goodness to you in sending it; but now, whilst you are under the affliction, get it so improved and sanctified to the good of your soul, that you may be able to say, “ It is good for me, O Lord, that I am afflicted; for by means of it I do learn thy statutes:" I see, “it is in very faithfulness that thou afflictest me;" and, if only thou “make me a partaker of thy holiness, send me what thou wilt, and when thou wilt: be the cup never so bitter to my taste, I will say, "Not my will, but thine be done."]
m Mic. vi. 9.
THE LOVING-KINDNESS OF GOD. Ps. cxix. 76. Let, I pray thee, thy merciful kindness be for
my comfort, according to thy word unto thy servant.
THE peculiar construction of this psalm forbids us to look for much connexion between its several parts. It is composed of short detached sentences, committed to writing at different times as they occurred to the mind of the Royal penman, and afterwards reduced to a certain kind of order; eight of them beginning with the same letter through all the successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet. If however we take the words of our text as connected with the preceding verse, we must understand it as a prayer that a sense of God's loving-kindness might be given him to comfort him under his afflictions. This sense we shall not exclude; though we shall not entirely limit it to this: for, if we take the words by themselves, they contain some peculiarly important hints, which we are desirous to impress upon your minds.
In elucidating them, we propose to shew, I. What the. Scriptures speak respecting the loving
kindness of GodThey are full of this glorious subject: they declare,
1. That it is the one source of all the benefits we enjoy
[Survey the lustre and use of the heavenly bodies, the rich fecundity of the earth, the structure of the human body, or the faculties of the soul; Whence do they proceed? Who is their author; and by what motive was he actuated in bestowing them upon us? Can they be traced to any other source than the kindness of our God? Behold the gift, the stupendous gift of God's only dear Son, and of salvation by him! Can this be traced to any other source ---] 2. That it is our chief support under all trials
[We will grant something to philosophy; and acknowledge that it can fortify the mind in some degree: but it is not to be compared with religion in point of efficacy. That may silence murmurs, and produce a reluctant submission; but this will turn trials into an occasion of joy and glorying b.]
3. That a comfortable sense of it is the privilege of all the Lord's people—
[God promises “his Holy Spirit unto all them that ask him." That Spirit shall be in them “a spirit of adoption," a witness, an earnest, a seal, a Comforter. From the days of Abel to the present hour, God has delighted to rejoice the souls of his servants by the testimonies of his love.]
But, if the loving-kindness of God be thus manifested to his people, it may be asked,
a See John iii. 16. Tit. iii. 4, 5. Eph. ii. 7.
II. Why David prayed that it might be for his comfort?
He did so,
1. Because, without a sense of it, his trials would have been insupportable
[David was exposed to many and severe trials: and, if he had not been favoured with peculiar supports, he would have sunk under them. This he often mentionsC: and St. Paul also acknowledges his obligation to God for similar supports d. When such manifestations were withdrawn, even Jesus himself almost fainted e: but when they were vouchsafed, the weakest females were made triumphant over all the malice of their persecutors.]
2. Because, though all are partakers of it, all do not find it to their comfort
[How many have the blessings of health and wealth, who taste nothing of God's loving-kindness in them, but make them the occasions of more flagrant opposition to his will! How many have been restored to health, who by their subsequent misconduct have turned that mercy into a real curse! Above all, how many have made Christ himself a stumbling-block instead of a Saviour, and “the gospel a savour of death,” when it might have been to them “a savour of life !” Thus would all men do, if they were left to themselves : even Hezekiah's miraculous recovery, and St. Paul's visit to the third heavens, would have issued only in their deeper condemnation, if God had not given grace to the one, and " a thorn in the flesh” to the other, to counteract the propensities of their fallen nature. Well then might David make this a matter of prayer to God, when none but God could impart to him this benefit.]
3. Because, if it be not to our comfort, it will be, in a most awful manner, to our discomfort
[It is no light matter to abuse the merciful kindness of God. The day is coming, when every mercy we have received, must be accounted for; and when "it will be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrha than for those " who have slighted a preached gospel. Every mercy therefore should be received with a holy fear and jealousy, lest it should prove only an occasion of more aggravated guilt, and heavier condemnation.] APPLICATION,
(Let us more frequently reflect on the loving-kindness of Gods_Let us meditate on it especially in seasons of troubleh And let us endeavour to requite it by devoting ourselves unreservedly to his service
c 1 Sam. xxx. 6. and Ps. cxvi. 3—5. d 2 Cor. i. 3—5. e Matt. xxvii. 46. f Heb. xi. 35. & Ps. xxvi. 3. and lxiii. 3. h Ps. cxliii. 78. i Ps. cxvi. 12. and Isai. lxiii. 7.