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was his duty in his situation, is the duty of the bereaved and afflicted, in all other similar cases. For,
1. God never takes away any favors from mankind but what he meant to take away when he gave them. It is true, he does not inform the subjects of his mercies how long he intends to continue, or how soon he intends to take away his favors; but he always determines in his own mind, before he bestows any blessing, how long that blessing shall continue, and whether it shall or shall not be removed during life. As he always has some purpose to answer by every good gift, so when that good gift has answered the purpose for which it was given, he takes it away, and not before. So that he acts from the same benevolent motive in taking away, as in bestowing favors. Could we see his motives in giving, we could see his motives in taking away; and of course could see the same goodness in taking away, as in giving. He never bestows the least favor upon any individual of the human race, without weighing the consequences of giving, nor, if he means to take it away, without weighing the consequences of taking it away. He always gives and takes away after the counsel of his own will, or his original designs, which like himself, are perfectly holy, just and good. If mankind have reason to bless God for giving, in any instance, they have the same reason to bless him for taking away what he has given. This is always true in respect to God, though not always true in respect to men. They may have better motives in giving, than in taking away. They may give in kindness, but take away in unkindness. But the kind Parent of the universe never treats his creatures so.
He gives and takes away from precisely the same benevolent motives. And this is a good reason why mankind should bless God under both the smiles and frowns of providence.
2. It becomes men to bless God in taking away, as well as in giving peculiar favors, because the favors he continues are generally more numerous and more important than those he
Life itself is paramount to all other earthly favors; for were they all taken away but that, that alone would overbalance all the losses and bereavements that could be sustained. Hence the prophet demands, “ Wherefore should a living man complain ?" But God generally spares far more than he takes away, and mixes innumerable mercies with his judgments. The mercies he bestows and continues are clear manifestations of his kindness to the afflicted, and demonstrate that he does not willingly afflict or grieve them. If he meant to treat them unkindly, he would strip them of all their comforts and enjoyments. But his mercy always rejoices against judgment, which ought to convince them that he is
more ready to give, than to take away. This ought to fill their hearts with gratitude, and cause them to bless the Lord at all times. For they always have reason to feel and say, “ It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.”
3. The afflicted always know that whatever personal evils God brings upon them, he constantly seeks the general good of the universe; and that all the sufferings they endure are calculated and designed to answer that wise and benevolent purpose. All personal evils and calamities are intended and suited to promote the general good, whether they do or do not promote the private personal good of the sufferers. Job's calamities, which were designed for his good, were no less designed for the benefit of thousands in all future ages. They have been, are now, and will be instructive and consoling to multitudes, who have heard and will hear of his sufferings and patience. Abraham's trial was designed not only for his good, but for the good of the children of Abraham from generation to generation, even to the end of time. The series of calamities inflicted on the murmuring Israelites have answered and will answer important parposes to the world in general, from age to age. God makes use of individuals to teach and to warn the world, by their conduct under his chastising hand. And the afflicted may always remember, whether they do or shall receive benefit from their own afflictions, the world certainly will. God is aiming at a good end in afflicting them, and this end he will certainly accomplish, whatever becomes of them. And ought they not to bless him, for seeking an end which is superior to their personal good, whether that be secured or lost, by his smiles or frowns upon them? The consideration that God is constantly and ultimately pursuing the highest happiness of the whole intelligent creation is a weighty reason for blessing and praising him in the darkest seasons, and under the heaviest public or private calamities. The primitive christians esteemed it a privilege to be counted worthy to suffer for the cause of Christ, and the benefit of the world. And why should not men now consider it a privilege to suffer for the good of the world? When God afflicts or bereaves, he implicitly says to the afflicted and bereaved, do you now teach your fellow men how to feel and conduct under the evils and calamities of life. Be an example of suffering affliction, and improve the opportunities I give you to promote the best interests of mankind, which is my supreme aim in laying my heavy hand on you.
4. The afflicted and bereaved have often reason to bless God, because the evils they are suffering are so much lighter than VOL. III.
those that many others have suffered, and are suffering. They are apt to think and say, there is no sorrow like unto our sorrow. Let them only look into the Bible, and read the history of God's conduct towards nations and individuals, and they will see reason to believe that their own trials, and afflictions, and bereavements, are light indeed, when compared with those recorded in the eleventh of Hebrews, and in other parts of scrip
Or let them look around them, and they can hardly fail to find one and another pressed down with heavier burdens and severer afflictions, than they have been called to endure. And when they see this discrimination in their favor, to what can they ascribe it, but to the mere mercy of him who punishes them much less than they deserve? But,
5. There is another reason why men should always bless God under both the smiles and frowns of providence; and that is, because this is the only way to make all his dealings towards them eventually work together for their good. There is an infallible connection between their feeling and acting right under divine corrections, and their receiving spiritual and everlasting benefit from them. Abraham, Jacob and Job derived great spiritual benefit from their singular and severe sufferings and bereavements. David found it to be good for him that he had been afflicted. Afflictions as well as mercies are suited to promote the personal benefit of the subjects of them, if they only wisely and properly improve them. If they are submissive under the frowns, as well as thankful under the smiles of Providence, they express that pure love to God to which the promise is made, “that all things shall work together for their good.” The great accuser of the brethren insinuated that Job loved God merely for his favors, and would curse him to his face, if he afflicted and bereaved him of what he had given. Accordingly God put Job's sincerity to the test, and he endured the trial; for he blessed God under his frowns as well as under his smiles. And by such a tender, teachable, filial and submissive spirit, he turned the frowns as well as smiles of God to his own present and future good. This then is the way and only way of deriving certain and saving benefit from all the dispensations of Providence. Hence it becomes the afflicted and bereaved to bless God in their present situation. They have no occasion for prying into the counsels of Heaven, or attempting to comprehend the divine purposes. They have only to be still and wait for the salvation of God. If they bless God, he will bless them. God is doing right, and if they will only feel and do right, he will teach them to profit by the best means his infinite wisdom and goodness can use with them. Let every afflicted one follow the example and adopt the language of Job: “Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil? The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”
Having briefly illustrated the subject proposed, it now suggests some reflections, which seem to be suitable to the present mournful occasion.
1. This subject suggests the propriety of drawing near to God, and conversing with him under his correcting hand. His providential dealings have a meaning and a voice, which the affiicted ought to hear and understand. The rod of correction has a voice, which calls upon the corrected to draw near to him who has appointed it; and converse with him under the tokens of his displeasure. The afflicted prophet resolved to perform this appropriate duty. “ Righteous art thou, O Lord, when I plead with thee; yet let me talk with thee of thy judgments.” It is one design of God in afllicting, to draw the afflicted near to himself, and cause them to realize his great and amiable character, for which they ought to bless him, under his frowns as well as smiles. He said concerning his ancient peculiar people, “ I will go and return to my place, until they seek my face: in their affliction they will seek me early." The afflictions of Job drew him near to God, and inspired him with a holy confidence to converse freely and humbly with him. " Then Job answered and said, Even to-day is my complaint bitter: my stroke is heavier than my groaning. Ó that I knew where I might find him! that I might come even to his seat! I would order my speech before him, and fill my mouth with arguments.” The providence of God is a comment on his word, and shows him to be what his word declares him to be," holy in all his ways and righteous in all his works.” The sons of God, therefore, ought to draw near to him in days of darkness, to open their ears and hearts to receive instruction and consolation, and to fill their mouths with arguments before the throne of
grace. 2. In the view of this subject, we may see the nature of true submission under the afflicting and bereaving hand of God. It is something very different from stupidity and insensibility under divine chastenings. This is not submitting to them, but despising them, which is highly displeasing to God. When he afllicts men, he means they shall feel the smart of his rod; and the more sensibly they feel it, the more they are prepared to exercise 'true submission; for while they feel no evil they can exercise no submission. The children of God are apt to feel every mark of their Father's displeasure. Nothing gives such an edge to their afflictions, as the consideration of their coming from the hand and heart of their heavenly Father. Were they mere accidents, or did they come forth of the dust, or spring out of the ground, they would seem comparatively light and supportable. But when they realize that the Father of mercies means to give them pain and distress, they feel not only the rod, but that which is far more grievous, the frowns and displeasure of him who hath appointed it for correction. He formerly complained of some, that though he had smitten them, they received not correction; and though he had stricken them, they grieved not, nor laid it to heart. True submission is not only different from stupidity, but from mere sensibility. The afflicted may feel the weight and see the justice of God's correcting hand, while they are far from being cordially reconciled and submissive to it. We often hear the afflicted say, that God is just, and has done them no wrong, while they inwardly murmur and repine, and are totally destitute of the least degree of true submission. For it is one thing to see and acknowledge the justice of God, and a very different thing to love that justice. Job was truly submissive, and his submission consisted in love to the justice of God. He said from the heart, “ The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away ; blessed be the name of the Lord.” He blessed God for his justice, as well as for his goodness; that is, for his taking away, as well as for his giving. This suggests another reflection,
3. That we have as much reason for submission under heavy, as under light afflictions. Some afflictions are great in number, great in kind, great in degree, and great in duration. All these aggravating circumstances united to heighten the afflictions of Job. They were numerous.
One affliction followed another in a thick succession, like the waves of the sea, billow after billow, billow after billow, until they seemed to overwhelm the good man. His houses and his flocks are destroyed; his servants and his children are slain; and at length he is tortured with extreme bodily pains. You have heard of the patience of Job in this forlorn situation. Without a murmur or complaint, he said from the heart, “ The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away ; blessed be the name of the Lord.” And,“ though he slay me, yet will I trust in him.” His submission was unconditional and unlimited. When Samuel delivered the divine messages to Eli concerning the calamities coming on him and his house, his prospects were dark and distressing; but yet he said, " It is the Lord : let him do what seemeth him good.” When David was driven from his house, and from his throne, and from the ark of God, he was involved in great and complicated evils; but still he unreservedly resigned himself into the sovereign hand of God.