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ishes his own happiness as a greater evil than it is, and a much greater evil than the same evil when it is inflicted upon others. And as he thinks there is no sorrow like unto his sorrow, so he as naturally imagines that his sorrow calls for greater pity and sympathy, than the sorrow of any other afflicted person. This is a common error of all the afflicted, though some may imbibe this error to a greater degree, and indulge it more freely, and manifest it more fully than others. There is such a vast variety in the nature, circumstances and duration of afflictions, that it is impossible to determine on whom God has inflicted the greatest natural evils or calamities; yet the afflicted are nevertheless almost universally disposed to imagine that they do bear, or have borne, the heaviest burdens, and experienced the deepest and most pungent and overwhelming sorrow. But as this must be a great and unhappy mistake, I now proceed,
II. To make it appear to be so. Here it may be observed,
1. That none that are afflicted ever know, that God lays his hand heavier upon them, than upon others. Though it be undoubtedly true, that God does lay his hand heavier on some than others; yet no one knows that his troubles, afflictions, and sorrows, are greater than some others suffer. God only knows how to weigh afflictions in an even balance; and he always does count the tears he causes, and weigh the sufferings he inflicts. He never strikes a lighter or heavier blow than he originally and eternally intended. He always dispenses good and evil to mankind in this world, in weight and measure according to his unerring wisdom, goodness, and justice. He knows how every person will feel under his smiles and frowns. He knows, that the same prosperity, or the same adversity, will not make the same impression on different persons. He knows beforehand what good to take away, or what evil to inflict, in order to give any person the greatest pain, sorrow, or affliction. But the afflicted never know this beforehand, in respect to themselves, or others; and therefore they never know whether their own afflictions are greater than those of others. They only know how heavy God lays his hand on themselves, but never know how heavy he lays his hand on others. Though they may think what they see others suffer is light, yet others may think what they see them suffer is light. Mankind are extremely apt to judge erroneously, concerning the nature and weight of their own afflictions, and the nature and weight of the afflictions which others around them suffer. They have a high estimation of the good which they see others enjoy, but a low estimation of the evil they suffer. And on the other hand, they cherish a low idea of their own prosperity, and a high idea of their own adversity. And this
erroneous comparison is one of the largest sources of impatience, discontent, sorrow, and affliction, all over the world, and leads individuals every where to imagine that God afflicts them too severely. None have any reason to imbibe and cherish this unjust and ungrateful opinion of the dealings of divine providence towards them, and to think hard of God for afflicting them too severely, because they imagine he afflicts them more severely than he afflicts others. For they do not and cannot know that this is true; but if it were true, it would be no just ground of complaint. God has a sovereign right to withhold good, or inflict evil, according to his own wise and holy pleasure.
2. The afflicted never have any reason to imagine that God afflicts them too severely, because he never afflicts them more than they know they deserve. Every person has sinned and come short of the glory of God. Every sin deserves punishment; and it belongs to God to inflict any punishment that sin deserves. Natural evil is the only proper punishment of moral evil, which is the primary source of all the pains, afflictions and sorrows, which have made this world a vale of tears. Though mankind are here in a state of probation, in which God does not mean to punish them according to the full demerit of their sins, yet he means, for wise and holy reasons, to chastise them for their disaffection and disobedience. All afflictions are real punishments and marks of the divine displeasure, which renders them so grievous to be borne. It was this that gave peculiar weight and pungency to the afflictions which the prophet laments in the text. “ Behold, and see if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow, wherewith the Lord hath afflicted me in the day of his fierce anger.” It was a sense of the divine displeasure which made the deepest and most painful impression upon the mind of the afflicted prophet. He was fully sensible that he and his nation had deserved all the afflictions and sorrows wherewith the Lord had afflicted them, by the tokens of his just displeasure. He felt that God had not punished them more, but less than they deserved. Accordingly, he says in the third chapter of his Lamentations, “ It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.” And under the same impression he asks, “ Wherefore doth a living man complain, a man for the punishment of his sins ?” No man in this world was ever afflicted or punished more than he deserved. What reason then have the afflicted to think or say that God has afflicted them too severely, when he has not afflicted them more, but less, than they deserved? The afflicted always have reason to feel and to say as Job did in the depth of his sorrows and bereavements, “ What! shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil ?" If we did not deserve to be punished, the lightest afflictions would be severe; but since we deserve to be punished, the heaviest cannot be too heavy. The best men on earth are morally imperfect, and their moral imperfection is displeasing to God, who has a right to correct them for their sins, and he cannot correct them more severely than they deserve; which ought to silence all their murmurs and complaints under the chastising hand of God. This consideration led Micah to say, " I will bear the indignation of the Lord, because I have sinned against him; until he plead my cause, and execute judgment for me." This feeling and language every one afflicted, whether lightly or heavily, ought to adopt.
3. The afflicted have no reason to think that God afflicts them too severely, because he never afflicts them more than they need to be afflicted. He does not afflict willingly, or grieve the children of men. All men need afflictions and trials in this life, and it is only when need be, that God afflicts them and tries them, that they may know their own hearts, which it is highly important that they should know. Moses said to the children of Israel, “ All the commandments which I command thee this day shall ye observe to do, that ye may live and multi
go in and possess the land which the Lord sware unto your fathers. And thou shalt remember all the way which the Lord thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thy heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments or not." Again we read, “ Thus said the Lord of hosts concerning his people, Behold, I will melt them, and try them: for how shall I do for the daughter of my people ?” And again he says, “I will go and return to my place till they acknowledge their offence, and seek my face; in their affliction they will seek me early." Peter says to those who had entertained a hope, “ Though now for a season (if need be) ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations; that the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise, and honor, and glory, at the appearing of Jesus Christ.” God knows when men need affliction, and what affliction they need; and he always sends proper afflictions at the proper seasons, to answer the wisest and best purposes. God afflicts some to draw forth the corruption of their hearts, and make them sensible that they are under the entire dominion of a carnal mind, which is opposed to his character, his law, his government, and the gospel of his grace, and of course exposed not only to his present, but his
future and everlasting displeasure. This is suited to alarm their fears, and excite them to flee from the wrath to come. God afflicts others to try their hearts, and draw forth their right affections, and give them sensible evidence of their having the spirit of adoption, and belonging to the number of his family and friends, and thereby removing their past painful doubts and fears. And he afflicts others, to give them an opportunity to display the beauties of holiness, by patience, submission, and cordial obedience in the darkest and most trying seasons. For this purpose principally, it seems, he tried Job and Abraham so severely. He never afflicts any person so often, or so long, or so much, as he might justly afflict him, but only so often, or so long, or so much, as he sees it proper and necessary to afflict him; and who can have any reason to complain of this? God always sees a need why he should afflict one person rather than another; why he should afflict him in one way, rather than in another; and why he should afflict him just so much, and no more. Though God very rarely informs the afflicted why they need to be afflicted, or why he does afflict them; yet they may often discover, either before, or at the time, or afterwards, that they actually needed to be afflicted at the very time, in the very manner, and to the very degree, God was pleased to afflict them. David discovered the need of his afflictions, and gratefully acknowledges the happy effects he derived from them. “ It is," he says, "good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes.” “ I know, O Lord, that thy judgments are right, and that thou in faithfulness hast afflicted me." God is as wise, and holy, and just, and good, in afflicting others, as he was in afflicting David. And if, instead of complaining that God afflicts them too severely, they would gratefully and submissively acknowledge that, in mercy, he has afflicted them less than they deserved, they would find peculiar benefit from his severest chastisements. It is unwise, as well as criminal, for any of mankind to complain that God afflicts them too severely, when he never afflicts them only in the time, and manner, and measure, in which they need to be afflicted. This all good men have always felt and acknowledged; and all others ought always to feel and acknowledge. I may add,
4. That the afflicted have no reason to think that God afflicts them too severely, because he never afflicts them any more than his glory requires him to afflict them. Though God has a subordinate regard to the character, and conduct, and state, and interest, of those whom he afflicts, yet he always has a supreme and ultimate regard to his own glory in all the dispensations of his providence towards the children of men. This he has often and expressly declared in his word. How often does he tell us, that he will do or has done this, " that his name may be declared throughout all the earth!” And how much more frequently does he say, I will do this or that, “ that ye may know that I am the Lord!” All the creatures and works of God are inseparably connected; and in governing one thing as well as another, and in disposing of one person as well as another, he has a supreme regard to his own glory, and the best good of the whole universe. Accordingly, he gives or takes away; he smiles or frowns; just as these great objects require. So that it is impossible for any creature in the universe to know whether he afflicts mankind too much or too little, because he gives no account of his matters, and only assures mankind that what they know not now they shall know hereafter. God always has as good reasons for frowning as for smiling; for taking away as for giving. This, Job believed ; and it gave him complete satisfaction." The Lord gave and the Lord hath taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord. When God revealed to Abraham his purpose to destroy Sodom, he placed implicit and perfect confidence in the reasons and motives of the divine conduct, and said, “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” The ways of God are inscrutable. None by searching can find out God. His judgments are a great deep, and his ways are past finding out. The incomprehensibility of the divine nature, and the absolute rectitude of the divine character, entirely forbid the afflicted to entertain the least thought that God afflicts them too severely, by denying them any favor, or by taking from them any blessing, or by inflicting upon them any evil. The attending angels (and perhaps every person has one) always see and admire the supremacy of God, and cordially approve of all the dispensations of his providence in the good he bestows, and in the evils he inflicts, upon mankind. They continually cry, “ Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory." They have seen all the awful judgments and calamities which God has sent upon whole nations and kingdoms, and all the personal trials, afflictions and sorrows with which he has visited individuals; but they have never seen any just cause for any of the sinful race of Adam to murmur or complain. God always reigns in righteousness, in wisdom, and in goodness; and never inflicts a single evil or calamity, or causes a single tear, without a wise and holy and proper regard to his own glory, and the highest holiness and happiness of the universe, which he is infinitely bound to promote, and which every one of his intelligent creatures ought to desire and pray that he would pro