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by the chastisements of his hand. He dashes some bitter into the cup of life; brings our spirits down by some affliction; shews us the vanity of that world which was seducing us, by bringing us into some trouble and misery, out of which the world cannot deliver us, and under which it has, God knows, no consolations to afford.
And, now, my brethren, I would anxiously desire to impress the following solemn consideration upon your minds. If any of you are not living near to God, and aiming to please him, as the great object of your life, you stand, even as respects temporal happiness, in a dangerous and critical position. The choicest blessing God could send you, would be some effective call, to change your habits, and amend your ways. And this call, as we have observed, is usually given, by chastisements and afflictions. What, then, is your life, but a constant petition to God, to visit you with some calamity? Every life is virtually a prayer. Give yours a voice; and at that voice both your ears would tingle. It would, in a word, be this: "O God, if thou hast any purpose of mercy towards me, and if I am not to be left alone, to perish in my sins; send some blight upon my substance, some misfortune to my family, some loathsome disease, or racking pains, to afflict my body, some secret sorrow to prey upon my heart."
And, O my brethren, where God sees that "it is good for us to be in trouble," and that it is "for our profit" to be chastened, he can chasten and afflict indeed. He knows the tenderest point, and every secret avenue by which it can be reached. He knows where our idols are; where our hearts are most vulnerable, and susceptible of the sorest wound; where misfortunes would lie with the most oppressive weight upon our spirits, or grief with keenest anguish pierce our bosoms. On this account, in addition to motives unspeakably more important, the dread of God's chastening hand, even in this life; the fear of those temporal miseries, which it is in his power to send; these have been often felt, by the most pious Christians, as an awful restraint-a constant remembrancer, that they should take heed unto their ways, and stand continually upon the watch.
May this suggestion be blessed, my brethren, to your advantage! If in any thing you are doing violence to your conscience, make haste to amend your doings for the arrow of mercy may be upon the wing-the chastening hand may be lifted up -the stroke may be descending-which will break up your domestic happiness, and lay every cheering earthly prospect in the dust and you may yet, by a timely repentance, avert the calamity, and escape the blow.
But whether these severe chastisements be necessary, or not, God will, in bringing us to himself, "set" the things that we have done " in order before our eyes."
The first work of real religion, upon the sinner, is to open the eyes of his understanding. As, on the first day of creation, God said, "Let there be light, and there was light;" so, in the new creation, the process is the same. When the spirit of God moves upon the face of our natural corruption, light arises out of darkness, and shines upon the soul. In this true unerring light, we see, not only our own outward actions, but our inward principles and motives; not only what we are to the eyes of the world, but what we are to the eye of God. And truly may it be said, that till this day-star dawns, there is nothing on earth, to which a man is a more total stranger, than to what passes in his own breast. This is eminently the case of those, who, outwardly decent, and coming up fully to the standard of the world's correctness, are not spiritually alive to God. Man's opinion to them is every thing; and being acquitted at that tribunal, their consciences are at rest. Nevertheless, such persons have been often brought to bear ample testimony against themselves. At the dawning of a higher light, than that of nature, they have seen the deep delusion in which they had been involved;
the utter depravity of heart, the foul corruption of principle, the total alienation from the blessed God, which lay under the fair exterior of a decent life. When a man thus weighs himself in the balance of the sanctuary, he forms an estimate of things, altogether different from what he did before. He stands accused, as a sinner against his own soul. He feels, for the first time, that he is an immortal being, that he was created in God's image, that he was redeemed by the blood of Christ, that he has been called, by Him that made him, to an angelic life on earth, and to glory, and honour, and immortality, in the life to come. He acknowledges this sublime and lofty destiny, to be his purchased inheritance, and his birthright. But he has sold his birthright, for a mess of pottage. He has cast away his crown, and trod his honour in the dust. He has abused the faculties, and betrayed the interests, of his soul. He has chained his affections down to earth. He has made no
provision for eternity; no preparation to meet his God.
As it respects his duties to his neighbour, he once took pride in a certain vague and general notion, that he had never, intentionally, done harm or injury to any inan. But he perceives, with new eyes, the mischief he has occasioned, the infection he has spread around. He sees that his tender
mercies have been cruel, even to those he most loved on earth ;—that whatever fondness he might have felt for the bodies of his own children, he had no pity on their souls. He is now aware, that what he had smiled at, as his venial errors, did more harm, if possible, than grosser instances of transgression: because better fitted, by constant repetition, and daily recurrence, to undermine, without giving the alarm to conscience; and thus, insensibly to draw off the hearts of those with whom he lived, from God. In short, he sees that his whole life was one continued course of injuring his neighbour, of scattering firebrands, arrows, and death, and saying, "Am I not in sport?" These things he has done: but this is not all. To God, his Creator, Father, Benefactor, and Judge, conscience now can tell him, what he has done, and what he has been. He has been living without concern, in the presence of insulted Omnipotence, and before that God who is a consuming fire. He has been trifling with that dreadful Majesty, which no man can see and live. He has been repaying goodness, which it is almost overwhelming to the mind to think of, with systematic and hardened ingratitude. Even his religion has been, strange to say, an instrument, which he has used, not for God, but against God. For in nothing does the worldly man so pointedly set himself in opposition