Imágenes de páginas

while by a previous use of the former, till they can be raised to an ability of applying the latter. And humanity requires, that even the weakest aid be called in: but at the same time, that the principal stress be laid on the firmest support; else what will be the consequence? only indeed what most of us in our turns have probably experienced. We have been told that grieving would not help us, without being told what would; and so have been left to grieve on. We have been told, that sooner or later our sufferings would abate, which is small satisfaction in the mean while; or that they would be short, because our lives are so, which is leaving us to be miserable, as long as we are any thing. We have been told perhaps, that pain is no evil, and virtue is its own reward in all circumstances, when we are actually feeling the contrary: or that others were as wretched as we, or even more so; as if that could make our wretchedness

We have been bid to turn our thoughts from our sorrows to amusements: when we could not, if we would; and possibly should have abhorred to do it, if we could. Sage maxims and counsels of various and contradictory sorts, have been urged upon us, which had no authority or weight to make their way into our hearts : but we have remained in the condition which poor Job expresses to his friends: I have heard many such things: miserable comforters are ye all*. Or though men have ever so few sufferings, yet, without religious views, they may have so few enjoyments, and those so low, that a rational soul must disdain them, and feel its existence to be insipid and unsatisfactory. Or, however content, upon force, to acquiesce after a sort in our own condition, we may still either be persuaded, that the general

* Job. xvi. 2.


state of things upon the whole is wrong and unhappy, or doubt so greatly whether it be right and good, that the world may appear very gloomy and comfortless to a benevolent mind.

If therefore we desire to pass through it with complacency, we must extend our thoughts further, like the Psalmist in the text; and consider ourselves, as in the hands of God: for then, whatever happens, or whatever is wanting, to us or to any one, we shall see cause to submit to it composedly, and placidly, without objecting, I became dumb, and opened not my mouth : for it was Thy doing.

The Creator of all things is evidently, as such, Lord of all things: and hath a right to place us in what station, and expose us to what accidents he pleases ; provided the being, which he hath given us, be not, on the whole, without our fault, worse than not being. For who art thou, O man, that repliest against God? shall the thing formed say unto him that formed it, why hast thou made me thus *? Is it not lawful for him to do what he will with his own t? he can have no need, no temptation to use us unjustly: and, without any, we never use one another so: which knowledge alone is enough to produce in us a considerable degree of dutiful submission. If what we dislike in our condition were the effect of mere chance or fatal necessity, we might rebel in our hearts against it.

But a principle of yielding to the lawful authority of an Almighty Ruler is part of human nature. Our circumstances perhaps are disadvantageous, or even our sufferings great. But if we look diligently into our temper and behaviour, have we not deserved all that we undergo, have we not deserved much * Rom. ix. 20.

+ Matth. xx. 15.

worse? And if so, surely we should say in our hearts, with poor penitent Eli, it is the Lord; let him do what seemeth him good*: and with Jeremiah, wherefore doth a living man complain, a man for the punishment of his sins ? Let us search and try our ways, and turn again to the Lordt. Perhaps also, the uneasiness, which we feel, whether inflicted for our transgressions or not, is more than overbalanced by the comforts that we enjoy. Our impatience may lead us into great mistakes in this matter: but God is liable to none. Or if, at present, wretchedness preponderates, he can easily make us a compensation, either here or hereafter : nay, if justice requires it, he certainly will. And it is good, that a man should both hope, and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord. In the midst of heathen darkness indeed,

I. there may to some have seemed cause of doubt, especially on trying occasions, whether the administration of things were just or not; and supposing it to be so on the whole, whether it was or could be so in regard of each particular person. Now these, the more love and zeal they had for what was right, the more they must be dissatisfied with what appeared to be wrong: and therefore might be excusable in a degree, if they murmured against the dispensations of Providence towards themselves, or others. Some again, impatient of the evils of this life, ignorant of the means of procuring strength to bear them, and perhaps also doubtful at best of another to reward them, might, without any heinous depravity, yield to the temptation of thinking themselves allowed or even called, by the author of their beings, to put a voluntary end to them, whenever they were oppressed by sufferings hard to support. But in the clearer light of our days, either of these dispositions would be unspeakably more criminal.

1 Sam. ii. 18. + Lam. iii. 39, 40. Lam, iii. 26.

Yet, were we only to believe, that God will do us no wrong, our submission to his will, though it might well be full of the profoundest reverence, would not be accompanied with the highest degree of esteem. But happily he hath also shewn us great kindness. For every pleasure that we enjoy, every capacity of receiving pleasure that belongs to our inward or outward frame, proceeds from his bounty. And how do we commonly behave


it? Yield ourselves up to his disposal with a chearful trust in him? No: repine and complain, that he hath not done more for us, or that he doth not continue to us all that we ever had. But every thing is more than we are intitled to. We have no property in any thing : we ourselves are his property. Our very being is not

He bestowed it, and whatever we possess in it, and that only during pleasure : he may allow us a few comforts, or mix with them as many afflictions as he will.

Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil* ? All that he granted, he may withdraw at any time: and our concern is only to say with Job, the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away: blessed be the name of the Lordt. He might have made any one of us the very lowest of his creation : and if the meanest of the works of his hands hath a claim to more than he hath vouchsafed, it hath an equal claim to more without end: and if it is not bound to resignation at present, can never be bound to it in any situation at all.

But though the sovereignty of God is absolute, we know not that he ever uses it in an arbitrary manner. Job ii. 10.

+ Job i. 21.

our own :

The Scripture tells us in express terms, that he doth not willingly afflict or grieve the children of men*. And to think, that he limits the happiness of the least happy of his creatures without a cause, would be entertaining a disrespectful notion of his glorious attributes. Manifold as his works are, yet in wisdom hath he made them allt, and the earth is full of the goodness of the Lord I. The farther men see into whatever he hath done or appointed, the more evidence they discern of foresight and skill, of bounty and mercy: and therefore ought firmly to believe they take place, even where they see them not. Such and such things we are apt to imagine might have been contrived more for our particular advantage. Yet perhaps we mistake: and what we wish either could not have been at all, (for many things may be impossible, which we do not perceive to be so) or would not have been the better for us. Our insight into consequences reaches but a very little way. In multitudes of cases we are full as ignorant of what would be for our benefit, as children are of what would be for theirs, and ought therefore to acquiesce in the will and the knowledge of our heavenly Father, as we expect them to acquiesce in ours.

But supposing that granting every one of our desires would be an act of kindness to us : yet the Lord is good to all, and his tender mercies are over all his worksç. Very often it is visible, that, if we succeed in our wishes, others must fail in theirs : were we to have this or that advantage, they must be under proportionable disadvantages. And why is it not as consistent with the wisdom and the goodness of God to regard their interests, as ours ? Perhaps we de* Lam. iii. 33.

+ Psalm civ. 24. Psalm xxxii. 5.

♡ Psalm cxlv. 9.

« AnteriorContinuar »