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as the reward from heaven of his faith and patience, than those of our brethren who now linger in bondage, will be to rejoin us in the land of our fathers, when they shall experience such an happy return from God to all the prayers and tears, which they have long poured out to him.”
I just observed that this striking passage is, in the first instance, applicable to the captive Israelites who either had returned, or had the gratifying hope of returning soon from a miserable and degrading servitude to foreigners and idolaters. But the words, “ They that sow in tears, shall reap in joy,” are capable of a much more extensive, much more important, and a much more practical application. They imply that the very circumstances, in which we are at present placed, seem to require, that there should be some evil and inconvenience in the world ; that, for many of the evils or disadvantages of this life some compensation is provided here; and, lastly, whatsoever portion of evil may not admit of full compensation in the state here below, yet, in the state beyond this, every apparent evil will be removed, and every seeming disadvantage recompensed ; so that the blessing shall outweigh the affliction, the good more than recompense the evil. On each of these three points I shall say a few words; and as they are of so practical a nature, so full of holy consolation and of pious hope, they will receive, I trust, your serious attention.
First, then, The very circumstances, in which we are at present placed, seem to require that there should be some evil and inconvenience in the world.
* See Hammond generally upon this Psalm.
Most of the difficulties, which hare embarrassed men of reflection, in the antient world more especially, about the pre-eminent wisdom and goodness of God, have arisen from their not knowing, or not considering, that the very purpose, for which such a creature as man is placed in his present state of existence, is that he should be gradually trained and prepared for another. Life is to us a place of trial and discipline; a school, as it were, of moral and religious improvement. Now we all know that, in the different stages of life, we are made to undergo many inconveniences, in order that we may be qualified to enter upon the next succeeding stage with propriety and effect. In infancy, we are carefully nursed and dieted, that our bodies may be in a fit state to undergo the exercise, that awaits us in the next stage. As youth advances, we are trained for the more robust exertions, which are called for in the active professions or in occupations of manual labour. Moreover, not only do we sustain some hardship and inconvenience, while we step on progressively from an earlier period of life to one more advanced, but we feel ourselves under the necessity of learning in these previous stages what will enable us to be of use to ourselves or others in those, which are to follow. Besides, in these various acquirements, we ever find the beginning difficult and even painful. Constraint, and even force, are sometimes applied in order to engage our attention to that, which after all is desirable, if not absolutely necessary; for when acquired, it tends to make the remainder of life conduce to our advantage, as well as our gratification. And not only do we inwardly feel dissatisfaction in having our attention thus forcibly drawn to the elements of any knowledge or the rudiments of any art; but the body is frequently compelled to sympathize with the mind, in the confinement to which it is subjected, or the severe correction which is sometimes bestowed. Now, similar to the manner, in which an individual is trained, while passing through successive periods of existence, is the process, by which the species is disciplined throughout the whole of this life, considered as a passage to another. Man finds himself, as it were, in the mere infancy and youth of his being; often thoughtless of what is to follow, necessarily ignorant of the precise situation, which will be assigned to him; yet feeling himself under the necessity of making the best preparation he can for it, by acquiring knowledge and habits, which may contribute to his happiness in that future condition of existence which awaits him. I say, all these preparations are necessary, however painful and inconvenient they may prove--because the present is a state of trial or probation--and, without some endurance of difficulty or pain, his virtues could not be called forth, nor his good qualities brought out to view. If there were no hardship in labour, where would be the merit of industry ? If there were no difficulty in learning, where would be the praise of knowledge ? If there were nothing agreeable in pleasure, where would be any temptation to be resisted? If there were no inconvenience in poverty, where would be the virtue of contentment? If there were no pain of mind or of body, how could we have an opportunity of displaying fortitude ?.. If other men were not unreasonable, we should have no provocations to withstand, no desire of vengeance to subdue: and if there were not acute suffering and deep distress around us, that pre-eminent Christian grace of charity would be lost for want of exercise.
It appears then that it is essential to the purposes for which we are created, that there should be some inconvenience and evil in the world that there should be an actual necessity for “ sowing in tears." But it should be added, that the necessity, imposed by such a state of things, brings with it, in a great degree, its own recompense. Every difficulty subdued is a fresh triumph; every temptation resisted inspires the consciousness of strength, and infuses the self-complaçency of virtue. The very patience, which is called forth in the hour of affliction, proves at length its surest alleviation; and the exercise of the benevolent feelings never fails to reward the possessor of them with a cheerfulness and tranquillity of heart, that fully, and more than fully, repay any sacrifice that is made, when they are drawn into action. S
then, in this view of things, it appears to be a wise and merciful provision, made by the Great and Good Author of our being, that “they, which sow in tears, should reap in joy."
This however brings me to the second head of this Discourse, which is, That for many of the evils or disadvantages of life some compensation is provided here..
Wheresoever we are enabled to trace the operations of that all-powerful, all-wise, and all-benevolent Being, who called us into existence, we distinctly
see the principle of compensation. That is, when we perceive the appearance of irregularity or defect in one part, we find it rectified by some increased advantage in another. Philosophers trace this distinctly in the motion of the heavenly bodies ; where the force, which perpetually operates to cause them to fly from the centre, and traverse the pathless wilds of infinite space, is as continually counteracted by an impulse towards the centre; and the effect of these opposing motions is to keep the body steady to its circular course round the sun. Perhaps a clearer illustration cannot be produced of the general plan, upon which the universe appears to be governed, so far as it is permitted to our dim and faint view, humbly and distantly, to discover such a plan in the effects of moral as well as physical causes. If we look to the material world, we shall find that the climates, which produce the finest fruits and the richest ores, are subject to the most dreadful convulsions of nature; while the very ease, with which the productions of the earth are supplied, gives birth to a languor and inactivity in the inhabitants, which paralyze the exertions of body and mind. Those, on the contrary, who are born under a less genial sky and less productive soil, have their minds, as well as bodies, exercised in discovering the means of escaping the uncertainties of the one, and correcting the asperities of the other. Their bodies become healthy from the necessity of severer toil; while their minds, in like manner, acquire an elasticity, and strength and quickness, which are in vain sought among the nations of a warmer and more luxurious climate. In