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In other miseries, the body suffers, perhaps, but the mind is calm and serene: or, even if both are afflicted, still there are many topics of consolation to support, many arguments of reason to soften and alleviate our infirmity. But, where the spirit is wounded, when conscious guilt rends and lacerates the very heart-strings with agonizing violence, what source of consolation shall we find, what arguments can then speak comfort? The spirit of a man may sustain his infirmity; the common infirmities of nature, and the incidental evils of life; but a wounded spirit,--a spirit pierced with a sense of unrepented guilt, --- who can bear?
In considering these words, I shall, first, shew the various arguments, by which a man may sustain his infirmity: and, secondly, that all these arguments are ineffectual to heal a wounded spirit.
So many are the afflictions of life, so many its disasterous changes and chances, that the unsustained frailty of man must unavoidably sink under them, without comfort. But the same God who sends the affliction, sends also the remedy. We are often tossed by the rough storms of adversity, but a parer air and tepid gales succeed their sweeping violence. The almighty
Father of the universe has implanted in us a fountain of consolation, flowing with various streams of mercy, to refresh us, and to support the soul from sinking into the darkness of deres : liction and despair. For, first, whoever suffers under the calamities of life, can reflect, that his sufferings are the corrections of a kind father, who does not willingly afflict his children; of a wise God, who sees every thing past, present, and to come, and directs them all to the best
ends, and for the general good. The humble - Christian, therefore, will not murmur, but be patient: he will submit his own weak judg
ment to the unerring wisdom of Providence, - and will cheerfully await the decision of his lot,
knowing it is a God of knowledge and justice that orders it.
Secondly Whenever affliction befals me, I can be assured, that it will not last long. The same God, who sees me this moment, perhaps, struggling with calamity, and weighed down with a multitude of sorrows, will, in due time, either free me from the load, or enable me to bear it; he will either increase my strength, or diminish my burden; or, at least, the time will soon come, when I shall quit my sorrows and my life together; when I shall lie down in peace in the grave of my fathers; when I shall be at
rest in that better country, where all tears are wiped from all faces; and what is much more, when I shall be safe in heaven, where my patience will be rewarded, and my light afflictions, which are but for a moment, shall entitle me to an eternal weight of glory.
Thirdly: A man may sustain his infirmity, and draw comfort to his soul, by considering the uses of afflictions. When we are troubled, we ought ever to reflect, that what we call our misfortunes, are in reality our blessings. They are the messengers of God to teacli us humility; to remind us of our weakness and dependence upon, him; to call us home from the pleasures and cares of a vain world; to awaken us to a better sense of our duty; to remind us of those various moral and religious obligations, which, amidst the hurry of dissipation and prosperity, we are ever too apt to forget. These are the great ends of affliction : and if we accordingly consider them in this light, and sanctify them to ourselves by applying them to their proper uses, we shall then be able to bear them patiently, and in all our distresses learn to have joy in the God of our salvation.
A fourth source of comfort is the testimony of a good conscience. In all thy trouble this VOL. III.
will stand thy friend, when every other worldly consolation fails or forsakes thee: it will enable thee to bear the unjust reproaches of evil men, and the misfortunes of an evil world: it will support thee amidst thy hard struggles against the iron hand of oppression, and cheer thee runder the bitter pangs of disappointed industry: when sickness invades thee, it will lighten the horrors of a bed of anguish, and give joy to the dreary silence of midnight; and when death, with all its terrors shall approach, this will speak comfort to thy soul, and enable thee to go through the last great trial of nature with hope and patience, and to adopt the pleasing exultation of good old Simeon, “ Lord, now lettest thou thy servant “ depart in peace; for mine eyes have seen thy “ salvation.” .
But the last and greatest support under affliction is the assurance of a life to come. This alone, were every other consolation wanting, is sufficient to sustain the infirmity of a man, and to'smooth the rugged brow of adversity. For 'what is time, when compared with eternity? What the sufferings of a moment to the joy of ages? Thou art afflicted now; but thou mayest be happy hereafter. Thou hast a body, perhaps, full of disease and infirmity here; but thou wilt have a body immortal, incorruptible
above. Thou lamentest, perhaps, the untimely fall of a beloved child; soon shall he be restoredto thy longing arms, incapable of a second fall.. Thou droopest over the grave of a faithful partner: soon, soon shall ye be again united, never more to feel the cruel pangs of separation. Thou dreadest the pains of death and the terrors of dissolution : but remember, that thou hast before thee a state of existence, where the voice of anguish is not heard, and the groan of mortality is uttered no more. What is there, then, that can deject a virtuous man and devout Christian, who knows that death is but the gate to eternity, and that the dark night of calamity will soon be succeeded by the glorious day-spring of happiness and immortality?
Such are the various considerations, by which the spirit of a man may sustain his infirmity. But what will these, alas! avail to support a guilty soul?
That there is an avenging principle implanted within us, which, after having in vain endeavoured to restrain, will afterwards torture us for our guilt, there is no nation or people but has readily owned. Even the heathens felt and acknowledged this principle in the strongest terms. They tell us, that every man has within him a