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by good persons and good books in private; the freedom which we and all around us have of worshipping our Maker, according to our consciences. Let us recollect, at the same time, the security of our persons and properties from oppression in all other respects, as well as this : that the whole exercise of civil authority over us, is legal and mild ; that no one will or can harm us, if we are followers of that which is good*. Let us compare our own condition in these particulars, with that of the multitudes elsewhere, indeed of most men throughout the earth, who sit in darkness and bondage, temporal and spiritual. Yet even they have cause to praise God. For the most deficient in worldly advantages have many consolations, if they will attend to them properly: the most ignorant shall be accountable only in proportion to their means of knowledge, and the most faulty shall be judged with every due allowance to the propensities of their nature, and the prejudices of their education. But how much more liberal is our share of whatever pertains unto life and godliness t: and what pleasure should we take in paying suitable acknowledgments! Blessed are they that dwell in thy house: they will be always praising thee I.
But besides being thankful to God, always, we ought,
II. To be thankful to him for all things.
That the gift of life, taking the whole of it together, is justly a ground of thanksgiving, we cannot question, without questioning also the goodness of the giver. Yet whether we are indeed thankful, and to what degree, for the sum total of it united, we should do well to examine ourselves. But the Apostle expressly enjoins us to be so for each part separately. Be it
1 Pet. iii, 13. + 2 Pet, i. s. | Psalm lxxxiv. 4.
ever so afflictive, we have deserved much worse : and therefore ought to bless our merciful Father, that the blow came no sooner, that it was no heavier, that it was repeated no oftener. But then, besides, the same Apostle hath told us, that all things work together for good to them who love God*. We are extremely prone to think otherwise, when any unpleasing occurrence befalls us; and to say with good old Jacob, All these things are against met. But as he found most unexpectedly, that the grievances, which he bemoaned, were the very instruments of his happiness throughout the remainder of his days: so have very many since, and so very possibly may we, experience the like unforeseen connection. I have shewn you, in speaking on the subjects related to this, from what evils our sufferings or disadvantages often preserve us, what benefits they often procure us. Indeed we frequently acknowledge, that to such or such a misfortune or disappointment we are indebted for our escape from destructive dangers, or our attainment of most desirable blessings. But we might discern many more events of this nature, would we look for them: and we should believe there are such very commonly, when we cannot see them. It is an act of duty owing to him, whose power and wisdom can easily bring good out of evil: and an act of prudence, which we owe to ourselves, as the sure way of turning every gloomy appearance into a cheerful one.
And were our troubles and crosses never to end in augmenting our temporal welfare, yet they may and will, if it be not our own fault, contribute to a far greater felicity, our moral and spiritual improvement. Sometimes we cannot avoid perceiving their Rom. viii, 28.
+ Gen. xlii. 36.
medicinal and salutary tendency: often we might perceive it by the help of a little serious consideration: and they may be extremely requisite, when at the time we perceive it not. For both our outward dangers and our inward weaknesses are very commonly unseen by us: whence we imagine ourselves to be in perfect safety, while we are really in imminent hazard. But the Great Physician of our souls knows our true and whole state: and it is unspeakable goodness in him, to apply the remedies, be they ever so rough, which our case demands, and a due regimen observed on our part will render effectual. When a needful, but harsh operation is prescribed to be performed on us by one of our fellow-creatures, though we are sensible we must feel from it exquisite pain, yet we chuse to undergo it, we desire to have it completely gone through without sparing us; and even during the smart, we bless the skilful hand, that inflicts the wound. Surely then we should bear as willingly, at least, the chastenings of the Lord, and neither faint nor murmur when we are rebuked of hin. For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth; and scourgeth every son, whom he receiveth*.
The worldly advantages, that we have wished for in vain, might not only have failed to produce in us a due sense of gratitude towards God, which alone would have been heinous guilt, but might have tempted us to irregularities, to pride, to injurious behaviour, to a ruinous choice of the good things of this life for our portion : whereas the uneasinesses and sorrows, that we groan under, may secure us from vicious courses, may teach us humility and compassion, may raise our affections above earthly objects. Before I was afflicted, saith the Psalmist, I went astray: but now I have kept thy word. It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I might learn thy statutes *. No chastening for the present, saith the Apostle, seemeth to be joyous, but grievous : nevertheless, afterwards, it yieldeth the peaceable fruits of righteousness unto them, which are exercised thereby t. If men be holden in cords of affliction, saith Elihu in Job, then God sheweth them their work, and their transgressions, that they have exceeded : he openeth their ear to discipline; and commandeth, that they return from iniquity. If they obey and serve him, they shall spend their days in prosperity, and their years in pleasure I.
* Heb. xii. 5, 6.
Whatever makes us better, will ordinarily make us happier even now. For our faults and follies are what usually bring on our troubles: and in that case amendment is the likeliest way to remove them, and prevent more. Or suppose
it proves otherwise, mere consciousness of amendment will administer no small consolation. And as there is very commonly pitiable wretchedness hid under shewish prosperity, so there may be sweet tranquillity of mind under sore calamities. In the multitude of the sorrows that I had in my heart, thy comforts have refreshed my soulg. Innocence gives great joy in the midst of sufferings : why may not piety, superadded to innocence or to penitence, give greater ? Few, alas, are qualified for such feelings; and therefore the mention of them may seem strange: but as they are perfectly rational, we may justly, on the authority of Scripture, believe God to excite and strengthen them in devout minds to such a degree, as to make them abundantly an over-balance to the heaviest pressures of this life. * Psalm cxix. 67. 72.
+ Heb. xii. 11. # Job xxxvi. 8. 11.
Ś Psalm xciv. 19.
Or if they be not, the Christian temper, formed and cultivated within us by the means of these pressures, will fit us for higher rewards in the life to come. So that indeed the burthens, which our Maker lays upon us, are intended by him, who knoweth our frame, and whereof we are made *, as a requisite preparation for our truest good: that we may be strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto patience and long-suffering with joyfulness; and give thanks unto the Father, who maketh us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light t. Were we but influenced by this consideration as we ought, we should say to God with pleasing wonder, what Job saith by way of discontented expostulation. What is man, that thou shouldest magnify him thus; that thou shouldest set thine heart upon him; that thou shouldest visit him every morning, and try him every moment ?
I But supposing the trials we undergo should not improve our virtues at all, yet they must be deemed a very severe exercise of them: and even were such exercise to impair some of them a little; provided it be not through undutiful misbehaviour under them, but merely from weakness, contrary to our wills and best endeavours, undoubtedly every single circumstance of our case will be equitably considered in our favour. It is true, our most laborious service hath no merit in it: but through the unmerited goodness of God, if we endure hardness as good soldiers of Jesus Christs, we shall be plentifully recompensed by the captain of our salvation i. For, as St. Paul triumphantly expresses it, 'All things are for our sakes, every dispensation of Providence is designed * Psalm ciii. 14. + Col. i. 11, 12 Job vii, 17, 18. 2 Tim. ii. 3.
U Heb. ii. 10.