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on earth, which He wishes us to consider as a journey to a blessed home: as a race, which, if we rightly run it, will bring us to the prize of everlasting peace, happiness, and glory. It is the forgetfulness of this that makes men dissatisfied and discontented with their condition in the present world. There is no man who does not know that in a very few years he will have no more to do with this world than if he had never been in it at all: neither is there any one who does not feel convinced, when he thinks seriously, that the world to which by God's goodness we are invited hereafter is ten thousand times more worth possessing. Yet strange to say, we are all disposed to think much less of it than it deserves, and we are, too many of us, inclined to set all our affections and hopes upon earthly things, which we know not how soon nor how suddenly we may be called upon to part from: the consequence is, that when things do not fall out just as we wish, when we meet with disappointments or sorrows, or afflictions, our minds are not prepared to bear them as they ought to be borne, and we are apt to murmur against Almighty God, as if He had treated us hardly and unkindly.
It is true, indeed, that no sorrow, nor affliction, nor disappointment, could ever come upon us without God's permission; and if this world were all that we were made for, and if we ourselves were innocent beings, without wickedness and sin, we might have more reason to complain when such visitations come upon us.
But how different is the truth! we know that God created us for the kingdom of heaven, and not for this world alone: and, so far from being innocent creatures, we are all unprofitable, unworthy sinners, and many of us have dared to return the mercy and goodness of God by the worst offences, and the vilest crimes. Who is there, then, that shall complain against the ways of God? Who is there when sorrows and afflictions come upon him that shall dare to say, I have not deserved them ?
But the truth is that sorrows and afflictions are, if we rightly consider them, the greatest proofs of God's kindness and love
to us. He sees how we set our hearts upon the perishable things of this world, and how we lose sight of and forget those better and more glorious things to which we are called hereafter, and He knows that if we cannot be brought to think of them, and prepare for them in time, we must for ever lose them. Therefore sometimes in His anger, yet always in His mercy, He visits us, and tries to awaken us; to bring us to our senses, and lead our thoughts to take a holy and a profitable turn. If He sees us trusting too much to our strength, our youth, our health, He visits us with sickness, weakness, pain; and teaches us that, without Him, we are nothing, and can do nothing. If He beholds us too fond of the riches and possessions of this vain world, He suffers us to meet with losses, crosses, and disappointments, that we may see the folly of laying up for ourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal, and may learn to lay up our treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through
and steal, and that where our treasure is there our hearts may be also. If He sees that we are fonder of earthly friends than we ought to be, and that our love for them leads us to forget our Father which is in heaven, He takes them from us, teaching us thereby the uncertainty of our own lives, as well as shewing us the wisdom of setting our hearts and hopes upon Him who alone can give and take away.
These are the trials to which we are all liable, and which we must all expect to share in a greater or less degree during our journey through life, according as the providence of God shall think best for us. They are not hardships: they are not cruelties : they are not thoughtlessly or unkindly laid upon us by a master who does not care for us: they are mercies, they are blessings, sent us by a just and holy God, by a father who pities us; by a friend who knows us and loves us far better than we know or love ourselves, and chastises us for our profit, that we way be partakers of His holiness. They are the trials of our hearts, the trials of our tempers, the trials of our patience, of our faith, of our love: they are deserved by our sins, they are called for and made necessary by the blindness, the forgetfulness, the unthankfulness of our hearts.
Sorrow, then, sooner or later, affliction, in some shape or other, we none of us can hope to escape, and we all of us have deserved, the highest as well as the lowest, the richest as well as the poorest, all must expect them in their turns. They do not, indeed, fall upon all men equally, for it pleases God that some should have a greater share of afflictions to struggle against than others; but, blessed be God, however great, however many our sorrows may be, He has not left us without the means of comfort, and it is our own fault if we do not find it.
The writer of the psalm from which I have taken my text, though he was a rich and mighty king, had a large share of those trials to which we are all liable: but he declares with lively thankfulness to God, In the multitude of sorrows which I had in my heart, Thy comforts have refreshed my soul.