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The Blessed Uses of Sorrow. Our Lord sends exercises to prove our faith, to manifest our reliance on him for support, and deliverance; in the world of nature, the Lord sends his frost which binds up the earth, and nips those noxious weeds which would otherwise cover the whole land; while at the same time the progress of vegitation is secured by those very means which seem to arrest fertility; in the wintry dispensations of providence, such is the Lord's design, to kill the weeds of our hearts by some blasts of adversity which preserve the soul in health.
The Lord ordains afflictions, and so guides his providence towards us, that those graces shall be produced which he hath bestowed; and that the sin of our hearts shall be manifest to ourselves, we are not led immediately to behold the corruption within, it is after divine teaching, that the plague-spots are visible, and the Lord's arm destroys these enemies little by little. The highest taught saint, hath never yet fathomed the depth of his own inherent
propensity to evil. When, from this awful and humbling view, we are led to cleave closer to Jesus, and to plead before God the efficacy of his blood, we come before God in his own appointed way, and that promise is fulfilled of which the Church are but little mindful, "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on on thee, because he trusted in thee.-Isaiah xxvi. 3.
When we find the afflictions of life conduce practically to our improvement in grace, who can deny that the followers of Christ have privileges far exceeding the followers of the world? Moralists have written on the beauties of virtue, but they cannot delineate the beauties of adversity; in some degree they may admit its wise purposes, and look forward to its beneficial results: but sorrow in all its gradations must be bitterness and rebellion in a natural heart. In the spiritual mind, it is wonderful to observe how frequently anguish and joy are associates; for if our light is overcast and tempests lour in the atmosphere, we know before they burst, that the lightning will be efficacious, it will kill the noxious products of corruption, and revive the principles of vegetation. A Christian
can and does rejoice in tribulation, that the power of God may rest upon him; for we are never so much under the manifestative dominion of that power, as when convinced that without it we can do nothing. When a recent temptation discovers the root of nature yet vigorous and full of embryo buds, we see the necessity of cutting and burning these dangerous sprouts; faith applies every prevention; and though sin is not eradicated, it is kept from spreading. In this watchfulness, we go softly all our days. The object of faith is the person of Christ, the subject of faith is his work; the influence of that almighty work, extends through every member of Christ's mystical body; and there is not a tear we shed, nor a heart-ache we suffer, but he knoweth it altogether; the grief his sovereignty permits is softened by his love. By a little diligence it were generally easy to trace the source of all our exercises; they are commissioned chiefly to bring us back, when straying out of the path of peace, to warn us from danger, or to keep us from falling; the whole scheme of divine discipline is elucidated in Psalm lxxxix. 30—33. "If my children forsake my laws, and walk not
in my judgment, if they break my statutes, and keep not my commandments; then will I visit their transgression with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes. Nevertheless, my loving kindness will I not utterly take from them, nor suffer my faithfulness to fail!"
Primitive Example of Prayer.-The prayer of Jacob in Gen. xxxiii. 9-12, appears to me a record by the Lord, the spirit of the plan and pattern of our petitions. We are too apt to search into forms of devotion for the expression of our wants; our ignorance would be better removed by studying the prayers in the book of God; they are given to his church by the Lord, who indited them, for models to that church throughout all ages. Jacob first, in this beautiful portion, calls upon God as a covenant God. "And Jacob said, O God of my father Abraham, and God of my father Isaac, the Lord which saidst unto me return unto thy country, and to thy kindred, and I will deal well with thee." It is only in his character as a covenant God in the promised seed, that fallen creatures ever can approach the throne. Jacob next tells the Lord,
that he is in the path prescribed, for what the Lord had said to him he is now obeying; it is
ever blessed when we can tell God, that our own walk is in the appointed line of duty. The patriarch next acknowledges his total unworthiness of all mercy, "I am not worthy of the least of all these mercies; and of all the truth which thou hast showed unto thy servant; for with my staff I passed over this Jordan, and now I am become two bands." Language cannot express an humbler frame; and whensoever the Holy Ghost instructs a sinner, the heart is first made lowly," before honour is humility." The patriarch proceeds to relate before God, the excercises of his mind, and reminds the Lord a second time of his gracious promise to do him good," Deliver me I pray thee from the hand of Esau, for I fear him, lest he come out and smite me, and the mother with the children; and thou saidst, I will surely do thee good, and make thy children as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude." We must always plead before God his own promises; the Lord loves to be reminded of his faithfulness, for it is faith presenting our reliance, which procures its fulfilment; observe how Jacob takes his family, his sorrow, his fear about the enmity of Esau, his anxieties