« EdellinenJatka »
ligent being, than when that intelligence produceth effects by means, in all appearance, more likely to produce contrary effects. This, we are sure, God hath eflected, and doth effect every day. And that we may proportion this discourse, not to the extent of my subject, but to the length of these exercises, we will briefly remark, that God hath the power of making. 1. The deepest afflictions of his children produce their highest happiness. 2. The contrivances of tyrants to oppress the church, procure its establishment. 3. The triumphs of Satan turn to the destruction of his empire.
1. God hath the power of making the deepest afflictions of his children produce their highest happiness.
The felicity of the children of God, and in general the felicity of all intelligent beings, is founded upon order. All happiness that is not founded upon order is a violent state, and must needs be of short duration. But the essence of order, among intelligent beings, is the assigning of that place in their affections to every relative being which is fit for it. Now, there is a fitness in having a higher esteem for a being of great excellencies than for one of small. There is a fitness in my having a higher degree of affection for one of whom I have received more benefits, and from whom I still expect to receive more, than for one of whom I have received, and still hope to receive, fewer. But God is a Being of the highest excellence, to God therefore I owe the highest degree of esteem. God is the Being of whom I have received the most benefits, and of whom I expect to receive the most; consequently, to God I owe the highest degree of affectionate gratitude.
Yet how often do the children of God lose sight of this grand principle! I do not speak only of a
few absent moments, in which the power of thought and reflection is, in a manner, gone; nor do I mean only those violent passions which criminal objects excite : I speak of a poison much less sensible, and therefore perhaps much more dangerous. We will give you one example out of many.
Two pious persons enter into the honorable state of marriage on principles of virtue, and compose a family that reveres the Creator by considering him as the only source of all the blessings they enjoy. Their happiness consists in celebrating the beneficence and perfections of the adorable God, and all their possessions they devote to his glory. He blesseth their union by multiplying those who compose it, and their children imbibe knowledge and virtue from the womb. The parents taste the most delicious pleasure in the world, in cultivating the promising genuisses of their children, and in seeing the good grain, which they sow in a field favored of heaven, produce in one thirty, in another sirty, in another an hundred fold, and they delight themselves with the hopes of giving one child to the state, and another to the church, this is to an art, and that to a science, and thus of enriching society with the most valuable of all treasures, virtuous and capable citizens. All on a sudden this delicious union is impoisoned and dissolved; this amiable fondness is interrupted; those likely projects are disconcerted; an unexpected catastrophe sweeps away that fortune, by which alone their designs for their family could have been accomplished; the child of their greatest hopes is cut down in the beginning of his race; the head of the family expires at a time in which his life is most necessary to it. A disconsolate widow, an helpless family exposed to every danger, are the sad remains of a house just now the model of the highest hıman happiness,
and in all appearance, of the purest piety. Is not this the depth of misery?
From this depth of misery, however, ariseth the highest felicity. The prosperity of which we have been speaking, was so much the more dangerous by how much the more innocent it appeared; for if the persons in question had founded it in vice, they would have quickly forsaken it, as wholly incompatible with their pious principles; but as they had founded it in piety, there is great reason to fear they had placed too much of their happiness in earthly prosperity, and that it had almost entirely engaged the attention of their minds, and set bounds to the desires of their hearts. But what is it to engage the mind too much in temporal prosperity? It is to lose sight of God, our chief good, in a world where at best we can obtain but an imperfect knowledge of bim. What is it to confine The desires of our hearts to earthly happiness ? It is to forget our best interest in a world, where, when we have carried that love, which God so abundantJy merits, to the highest pitch, we can offer him but a very imperfect service. Every object that produceth such an effect occupies a place in the heart, which is due to none but God. And while any
other fills the seat of God in the heart, we may indeed have a kind of happiness, but it must be a happiness contrary to order; it is violent, and it must be short. I am aware that the loss will be bitter in the same degree as the enjoyment had been sweet į but the bitterness will produce ineffable pleasures, infinitely preferable to all those that have been taken away. It will reclaim us again to God, the only object worthy of our love, the alone fountain of all our felicity. This may be inferred from many declarations of scripture, and from the lives of many exemplary saints, as well as from your own experience, if indeed, my dear hearers, when God hath torn away the objects of your tenderest affection, you have been so wise as to make this use of your losses, to re-establish order in your hearts, and to give that place to God in your souls which the object held of which you have been deprived.
2. God establisheth his church by the very means that tyrants use to destroy it. But the reflections which naturally belong to this article, you heard a few weeks ago, when we explained these words in the Revelation, here is the patience of the saints,* Rev. xiii. 10. We endeavored then to prevent the gloomy fears that might be occasioned in your minds by those new edicts, which Rome, always intent upon making the kings of the earth drunk with her fornication, chap. xvii. 2. had extorted against your brethren. We exhorted you, in the greatest tribulations of the church, never to lose sight of that divine providence, which watches to preserve it.
We reminded you of some great truths that proceeded from the mouth of God himself: such as, that the Assyrian was only the rod of his anger, Isa. x. 5. that Herod and Pilate did only what his hand and his counsel determined before to be doné, Act iv. 27, 28. These truths should be always in our minds, for there never was a time when we had more need to meditate on them. The distresses of our brethren seem to be past remedy. To incorporate our felicity with that of a church, a considerable part of which hath been só bong bathed in tears, seemis as irrational as the conduct of Jeremiah, who just before the desolation of Judea, purchased an estate in that country, with This is the seventh Sérioon of the twelkh voluble, and is catitled, Les Nordrana Muda the money which he wanted to alleviate his captivityin Babylon. Yet, O Lord God, the God of the . spirits of all flesh, is there any thing too hard for thee? Thou hast made the heaven and the carth by thy great power, and by thy stretched-out arm. Thou art the great, the mighty God, the Lord of hosts is thy name ; great in counsel, and mighty in work.
bours de l'Eglise.
'3. Finally, God turneth the victories of Satan to. the ruin of his empire. Here fix your attention upon the work of redemption ; for the perfections of God, which we celebrate to-day, are more illustriously displayed in it than in any other of the creator's wonders. · It is, if I may be allowed to express myself so, the utmost effort of the concurrence of the greatness of his counsels with the abundance of his power. I resume this subject, not for the sake of filling up my plan, but because iny text cannot be well explained without it. Those inspired writers, who lived under the old testament dispensation, always mixed something of the gospel redemption with the temporal deliverances which they foretold.
One of the strongest reasons, that they urged to convince the Jewish exiles that God would restore their country to them, was that their return was essential to the accomplishment of the promises relating to the Messiah. Jeremiah particularly uses this method in the verses connected with the text. Why doth he exalt the greatness of God's counsel, and the abundance of his power? Is it only because, as he expresseth it, God would gather the Jews out of all countries whither he had driven them in his fury: so that men should buy fields in the places about Jerusalem ? ver. 37. No, but it is because he would make an everlasting covenant with them, ver, 40. It is because at that time