« السابقةمتابعة »
the name of the Lord." And when he was rebuked for saying this, he replied, "Shall we receive good at the hand of the Lord, and shall we not receive evil ?” With respect to the same person, God has the same reasons for giving and for taking away. When he gives in mercy, he takes away in mercy; and when he gives in judgment, he takes away in judgment. God is as incomprehensible in dispensing good, as in dispensing evil to mankind; and with respect to others, we never know whether God loves or hates them, merely by the dispensations of his providence towards them; and with respect to ourselves, we never know whether he loves or hates us, merely by the favors he gives, or denies, or takes away from us. But mankind are extremely apt to think, that prosperity and adversity are peculiar marks of God's love and hatred towards themselves and others. So Job's friends thought of God's providential dealings towards him. So those thought, who saw the viper fasten on Paul's hand. So those thought, who told Christ of the Gallileans, whose blood Pilate mingled with their sacrifices. And so all men are apt to think of God's providential dealing towards themselves. But this is a great and dangerous error, because God dispenses good and evil in this world, not to distinguish his friends from his enemies, but to promote the highest good of the whole family of heaven and earth. And upon this ground, he has generally bestowed as great temporal favors upon the worst of mankind, as upon the best; and inflicted as great evils upon the best, as upon the worst. He is therefore as incomprehensible in the smiles as in the frowns of his providence. His reasons in both are absolutely unsearchable; and will remain so, until the revelation of his righteous judgment, and the reasons of the dispensations of his providence are unfolded to the view and apprehension of all his intelligent creatures.
3. If God be incomprehensible in all the ways of his providence, then all the dispensations of his providence towards mankind are proper trials. They never know his reasons for sending either prosperity or adversity; and therefore both prosperity and adversity are proper and equal trials whether they will submit to his absolute sovereignty. For aught they know, both his mercies and his frowns may be in judgment; and both equally try their understandings and hearts. Every dispensation of providence tries their understandings, whether they are willing to submit their wisdom to his, or their reasons to his reasons, which they are incapable of comprehending. They are extremely apt to lean to their own understandings, and to imagine that they know how God should treat them better than he knows. They are continually calling in question the wisdom of God in the dispensations of his providence towards themselves and others. They imagine they see great and numerous errors in his universal government, and often stand and contend with their Maker about the wisdom and rectitude of his providence. And when they cannot dispute the wisdom, they will dispute the goodness of his conduct. They trust in their own hearts, as well as lean to their own understandings. They would persuade themselves, that if God were as kind, benevolent and compassionate as they are, he would not send either mercies or afflictions in judgment.
Their selfish hearts rise against his benevolent heart, and their partial goodness against his impartial and universal goodness. They would regard the good of one individual more than the good of the whole universe. Now it is easy to see that while God in the dispensations of his providence regards the good of all more than the good of any individual of his creatures, he continually counteracts the imperfect wisdom and imperfect goodness of mankind; which is a constant trial, whether they will submit their understandings to his understanding, and their hearts to his heart. His bestowing good is as great a trial to them as his inflicting evil. They are continually complaining of his treating one person better than another, and lavishing his favors upon the most apparently unworthy objects. God knows that all these things are trials to mankind; but he knows that his incomprehensible wisdom and goodness require him to try all the children of men by every dispensation of his providence.
4. If God be incomprehensible in his ways of providence, then there is the same ground of submission under heavy, as under light afflictions. No affliction for the present is joyous, but grievous. God never requires men to submit to any natural evils or afflictions in themselves considered. He hates all natural evil as really as moral evil, and therefore never afflicts willingly, or grieves the children of men.
He takes no pleasure in their pain, and he never requires them to take pleasure in pain itself, which is naturally impossible. But he does require them to submit to him, in all the pains and calamities which he inflicts upon them, because he always has wise and good reasons for every natural evil he inflicts upon them. He has as wise and good reasons for trying them with heavy, as with light afflictions; and therefore they have the same ground of submission under the heaviest, as under the lightest trials. They ought to bow their understandings to his understanding, and their hearts to his heart, under every trial. They are under the same obligation to submit to God, when he takes away all their earthly blessings, as when he takes away only a part.
Job viewed himself as entirely stripped, and was entirely submissive. “ Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return thither. The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away: blessed be the name of the Lord.” God never inflicts any evils upon mankind inadvertently, or unintentionally. He always sends afflictions in exact weight and measure, and means to give them all the pains and sorrows which they actually feel under his afflictive hand. And though he does not require them not to feel his heavy hand, yet he does require them to bow their understandings to his, and their wills to his, and cordially approve of his wise and good reasons for acting, which they cannot at present comprehend. The heavier afflictions are, the more they display both the incomprehensible wisdom and goodness of God. This wisdom and goodness never shine brighter than when they surpass and counteract the wisdom and goodness of this world. In great afflictions, God appears greater, wiser, and better than
It is, therefore, really easier to exercise true submission, under heavy, than under light afflictions, and it is highly probable that mankind do more frequently and sincerely submit to heavy, than to light trials. And consequently, they must be more inexcusable, if they refuse to be comforted under heavy, than under light affliction.
5. If the ways of providence are incomprehensible, then all things in this world are suited to make all men religious. God carries them all in his holy and sovereign hand, and is practically speaking to them every day and every moment. Every object they see, every good they enjoy, and every evil they suffer, concur to teach them their absolute dependence upon God, and their constant and indispensable duty to regard the operations of his hand, and the operations of their hearts under it. The blessings he gives, and the blessings he takes away, call upon them to bless his holy name. His
providence is a plain and intelligible comment upon his word. They may every day read his supremacy and their dependence, in his providence, as plainly as in his word. They may almost every day read their frailty and mortality in his providence, as plainly as in his word. They may continually read the vanity and uncertainty of all earthly good as plainly in his providence, as in his word. And they may continually read the importance of their securing the love, the presence, the assistance, and the enjoyment, of God, in his providence, as plainly as in his word. "If, therefore, any do not see, love, obey, and enjoy God, under his instructive providence, they are altogether criminal and inexcusable, and constantly exposed to be
destroyed by their prosperity, and the innumerable blessings God is constantly pouring into their bosoms.
6. If God is incomprehensible in his providence, then it is easy to see how all things will certainly work together for good to them who love him. Infinite wisdom and infinite goodness can order things, so as to bring light out of darkness, good out of evil, and joy out of sorrow. And those who know that they love God, may know that all the evils and fiery trials they are called to experience, shall ultimately terminate as Jacob's, and Joseph's, and Job's troubles did. They will all be the means of their future and eternal benefit. To this source of consolation let me now turn the attention of those who appear as mourners this day. The father and his family are called to experience a heavy and sore bereavement. God has taken away from them an amiable son and brother. But they have reason to be thankful that God spared him so long, and raised him to a station of so much dignity and usefulness. Judge METCALF was undoubtedly a useful man where he lived, * and as long as he lived. But God has answered his own purposes by both his life and death, and by the afflictions which have flowed and will flow from his premature decease in the midst of his days. The duty and the happiness of his bereaved friends are now inseparately connected. Their duty is to be still, and know that the Lord is God, and their happiness must flow from this only source of consolation. God has done right, and if they only feel right under his unsearchable providence, they will always have ground to bless God for giving and taking away the dear object of their affection. This instance of mortality in connection with the late instances of mortality call aloud upon persons of every age, character, and station, to prepare for their great and last change.
* Natchez, Miss.
WISDOM OF HEARING THE VOICE OF AFFLICTION.
MARCH 5, 1820.
The Lord's voice crieth unto the city, and the man of wisdom shall see thy name :
hear ye the rod, and who hath appointed it. - Micah, vi. 9.
JERUSALEM was the capital of Judea. To that city God directed the tribes of Israel to repair for his public worship. There his sacred oracles were deposited, read, explained, and inculcated. There every species of religious instruction was given from Sabbath to Sabbath. The inhabitants of Jerusalem were laid under the strongest obligations of obedience to all the divine commands; and, consequently, when they were disobedient, God usually sent his prophets to reprove them, and warn them of their danger of falling under the tokens of the divine displeasure, and through them, to reprove and warn the whole nation. Accordingly, the prophet Micah was sent to the sinners in Zion, to urge upon them the duty and importance of hearing the voice of God speaking to them by the rod of his wrath. This message the prophet delivers in the words of the text. “The Lord's voice crieth unto the city, and the man of wisdom shall see thy name: hear ye the rod, and who hath appointed it.” Though these words are highly figurative, yet they suggest several things which are worthy of particular and serious consideration.
I. That God appoints every affliction that men experience. II. That every affliction has an instructive voice.
III. That it is a point of wisdom to hear the instructive voice of affliction. I. I am to show that God appoints every affliction that men