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SERMON X XII.
THE TROUBLES OF LIFE DIVINELY APPOINTED.
MARCH 10, 1821.
ALTHOUGH affliction cometh not forth of the dust, neither doth trouble spring out of the ground ; yet man is born unto trouble, as the
sparks fly upward. — JOB, v. 6, 7.
WHEN Job was first bereaved and afflicted, he felt and expressed cordial and unreserved submission to the holy hand of God. He said from the heart, “ The Lord gave,
and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” He might have continued in this proper and happy frame of mind, had not Satan obtained permission to assault him, by his subtile and malignant suggestions, which moved him to murmur and repine under his complicated afflictions and bereavements. While he was in this forlorn condition, his friends came to mourn with him, and comfort him. But after sitting a long time in silence, and hearing his bitter complaints, they thought it more proper to reprove his despondency, than to assuage his grief. Here Eliphaz took the lead, and among other things observed, that his case was not so singular as he imagined and represented; for not only individuals, but all men without exception, share in the evils and calamities of the present life, which God meant should be full of trouble.
Although,” says he, “affliction cometh not forth from the dust, neither doth trouble spring out of the ground; yet man,” that is, every man, “is born to trouble, as the sparks fly upward.” By this, he means to remind Job of what he had before acknowledged, that the troubles and afflictions of the present state do not come by chance or accident, but flow from the appointment of God, who made and governs the world. The text, in its plain import
, suggests this melancholy truth to our present consideration :
That God has ordained that this should be a troublesome world to all mankind. I shall,
I. Show that this is a troublesome world. And,
Could we all have a clear and comprehensive view of this world at once, we should all form precisely the same opinion of it. There is not a moment when sorrowing, sighing and mourning universally cease. There is continually a great multitude of individuals, who are groaning under pains of body, and the more intolerable agonies of mind. But we are apt to judge of the world according to what passes within the small circle of our own observation and experience. And in this very partial and imperfect view, it often appears more a delightful than a troublesome world. Hence arises the propriety of illustrating a truth, which we all sometimes believe and sometimes disbelieve, that we are born to trouble as the sparks fly upward. Here I might observe, that every thing in this world has a tendency to give pain, trouble and distress to the weak, ignorant, depraved creatures who inhabit it. But not to wander in such a wide and extensive field, I shall confine myself to the following particulars.
1. The elements of which the world is composed are not only troublesome, but often destructive to mankind. The earth, the air, the water, and the fire, which are the constituent parts of the material system with which we are connected, produce innumerable evils among the human race.
The surface of the earth is so rough and uneven, so full of rocks, and mountains, and caverns, and pits, and hideous places, that it is difficult and dangerous for mankind to move upon it. Our Saviour himself found it wearisome and fatiguing to traverse the regions of Judea, one of the best cultivated spots on the face of the earth. And all mankind have found the same difficulties and dangers in traversing the various parts of the world. Besides, the things which grow out of the earth, and which afford both food and medicine to mankind, often prove prejudicial and fatal to them. The air we breathe, and by which life is supported, teems with ten thousand noxious qualities, which are the seeds of innumerable distressing and destructive disorders. This is the case of the air in its most calm and serene state; but when it rises into winds, and storms, and hurricanes, it spreads misery and destruction far and wide, by sea and land. Millions have perished by means of this element with which we are constantly surrounded. Water, which is so agreeable to the palate and so refreshing to the thirsty, is a dangerous element, and frequently productive of great and fatal evils to mankind. When its small and harmless particles are congealed into frost, and hail, and snow, and ice, or collected in large and rapid streams, or gathered together in the mighty ocean, they destroy thousands and thousands of the human race. It is a common observation, that fire is a good servaut, but a bad master. How often has it raged without restraint, and laid not only villages, towns and cities in ashes, but destroyed the lives of multitudes! Thus all the elements which compose the world are a fruitful source of troubles, calamities, afflictions and sorrows, to the children of men. They know not when nor where they are entirely safe from the war of elements. The earth may crush, or the air may suffocate, or the water may drown, or the fire may consume them, so long as they inhabit this troublesome world.
2. The great changes which take place in the world, from year to year, render it not only troublesome, but very distressing and destructive to its inhabitants. Every one of the four seasons of the year brings with it peculiar trials, labors, dangers and diseases. Though the winter be healthy to the young and vigorous, it is no less injurious to the health, the comfort
, the safety and lives of the aged and infirm. More of this last description of men languish and die in this, than in any other season of the year. And when this season does not prove fatal to the young or to the aged, it nevertheless wrecks their constitution, and paves the way for painful and mortal disorders, in the following seasons. The transition from winter to spring never fails to give a shock to the bodily machine, and often brings on acute diseases, and renders chronic disorders fatal. The change from spring to summer is perhaps the least dangerous season of the year. But the change from summer to autumn is extremely hazardous. The most inflammatory and mortal distempers often prevail in this season, and carry off many of the most healthy and vigorous of every age.
Indeed, every change of season is more or less afflictive, and never fails to be more or less injurious to the health, the happiness, and lives of men. If the seasons were uniformly temperate, and mankind never experienced any extremes of cold and hot, or of wet and dry weather, they would probably escape a vast many bodily pains and disorders, and enjoy a great deal more vigor of body and mind, than they do at present.
3. Many parts of the world are filled with a vast variety of animals, which are extremely hostile and troublesome to mankind. Ever since the apostacy of man, God has put enmity between the animal creation and the human species. How many poor unfortunate creatures have fallen victims to the wild beasts of the forests, or to the monsters in the sea, or to venomous serpents that creep on the earth! Nor are some tamed animals less dangerous and mortal, when armed for war, or provoked to revenge. But though we can generally guard ourselves against the fatal attacks of such fierce and venomous creatures, yet we cannot prevent their corrupting the air, and spreading plagues and pestilences through towns, and cities, and whole provinces. Animated nature abounds with creatures which, both living and dying, are injurious to the health, and often fatal to the lives of men. And we have good reason to believe that God has created and preserved every beast of the field, every fowl of the air, and every creeping thing, for some valuable purpose ; and in particular for the wise and holy purpose of making this a troublesome world.
4. This world is full of evil, on account of the moral depravity which universally prevails among its human inhabitants. Man is the greatest enemy of man. All the other evils and calamities which have been mentioned, are light and few, in comparison with those which spring out of the corruption of the human heart. This sets all mankind, more or less, at variance with each other. This is the representation which the apostle gives of the present state of human nature. “ There is none righteous, no, not one.” “ They are all gone out of the way; they are together become unprofitable ; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips; whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood. Destruction and misery are in their ways, and the way of peace have they not known.” A world filled with such corrupt and depraved natures must be a troublesome world to live in. And it appears from both sacred and profane history, that it always has been so. Cain killed his righteous brother Abel. Nimrod was a mighty warrior, and a scourge to his fellow men. The heathen were a scourge to the Jews, and the Jews were a scourge to the heathen. All nations have exerted their power and malignity in spreading misery and destruction among one another. But the personal injuries which individuals give and receive are far more numerous than public calamities, and much more troublesome and grievous to endure. And in these, all men, whether high or low, rich or poor, young or old, good or bad, have almost an equal share. By being born sinners, they are all born to give and feel trouble. And if they had power equal to their depravity, they would lay the world, and even the universe, in ruins. I must add,
5. This is a troublesome world, on account of the heavy and complicated calamities which are inflicted by the immediate hand of God. He presides over the natural and moral world, and employs both as instruments of bringing trouble, misery and death upon all the inhabitants of the earth.
He is continually defeating the designs, blasting the hopes, and dissolving the tender ties of mankind, by which he throws husbands and wives, parents and children, brothers and sisters, and the dearest friends and connections, into the furnace of affliction. How numerous are the sons and daughters of sorrow in this evil, sickly and dying world! God exercises a particular providence over natural and moral causes, and can commission the sword or pestilence, the fire or the water, the heat or the cold, the mote or the insect, the friend or the foe, to inflict pains, troubles, diseases and death upon the children of men, notwithstanding all their wisdom, prudence and precaution to avoid these evils. He wounds and he heals, he kills and makes alive, and there is none that can deliver out of his hands. He means that this world shall be a state of discipline, and continually holds the rod of correction in his hand, and employs it every day in chastising some of the human race. He will maintain this mode of discipline, and continue to correct both nations and individuals to the end of time. So that this will never cease to be a troublesome world as long as it exists. It is now natural to inquire,
II. Why God ordained this state of things, or made this a troublesome world. He could have made this world as free from trouble as any other world now is, or ever will be. He could have made the world like the garden of Eden, and the garden of Eden like the paradise above. We can easily conceive of several ways in which he might have greatly if not entirely prevented the evils which now overspread the world. He might have so formed and arranged all the material elements, as to have prevented earthquakes, volcanoes, storms and conflagrations, as well as all painful and mortal diseases. He might have given a friendly and harmless disposition to both rational and irrational creatures, and so formed both the natural and moral world, that no natural or moral evil could have been seen or felt in it.
The question now returns — why did God ordain that this should be a troublesome world to all that are born in it? To this I answer in general, it was because he knew that all the children of men would be born sinners. There is reason to believe that God framed the world in view of the apostacy of Adam, and adapted it to the foreseen state of his sinful posterity. And this leads me to observe,
1. That God ordained this to be a troublesome world,