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2. If it be owing to divine instruction, that divine chastenings do men good, then we may conclude that divine chastenings alone will do them no good. The natural tendency of divine chastenings is, to stir up whatever moral corruption lies in the heart; and they will produce no other effect, unless God himself teaches them to profit. No afflictions, whether light or heavy, will subdue the natural heart, of themselves, but harden it more and more. This has been most clearly manifested by unsanctified afflictions from age to age. Though God's judgments have been abroad in the earth, yet the inhabitants of the world have not generally learned righteousness and obedience, by the things that they have suffered. Divine chastisements were lost upon Pharaoh and his kingdom. Severe trials and troubles and afflictions were lost upon the Israelites whose carcasses fell in the wilderness. The dreadful calamities which fell upon the Jews, both before and after the destruction of Jerusalem, instead of instructing and reforming them, only served to ripen them for an aggravated ruin. Though men are born to trouble as the sparks fly upward, and none can escape from lighter or heavier afflictions, yet very few derive any saving benefit from their fiery trials. The reason is, God does not generally intend to sanctify the afflictions which he sends upon nations or individuals; and, whenever he does not sanctify them, they invariably become means of blinding their minds, hardening their hearts, and increasing their native opposition to all means of divine and saving knowledge. Afflictions always become a savor of life unto life, or a savor of death unto death, just as God sees fit to operate upon the hearts of the afflicted. The day of adversity is a day of trial. When God throws men into the furnace of affliction, he will either bring them out purified and refined, or reduce them to dross, which is good for nothing but to be thrown away. They are in a perilous situation, and have reason to tremble for what may be the issue of God's dealings towards them.

3. If God improves the time of affliction as a favorable opportunity of instructing men out of his word in the knowledge of divine things, then the friends of God ought to improve the same favorable season for giving religious instruction to the afflicted. Those who have disregarded religious instruction in days of prosperity, will sometimes readily regard it in days of sorrow and affliction. In such seasons, pious parents have peculiar encouragement to pour instruction into the minds of their ignorant, thoughtless, prayerless children. Pious children have great encouragement to converse freely, affectionately, and solemnly, with their afflicted brothers and sisters. Pious friends have peculiar encouragement to enlighten, counsel, or comfort their afflicted connections or acquaintance. And ministers of the gospel have a peculiar opportunity, which they ought wisely and faithfully to improve, to teach their afflicted people the great and precious truths contained in the word of God, which in days of prosperity they had no disposition to hear and regard. Sometimes a few words, and sometimes one word, fitly and seasonably spoken, will produce a great, a lasting, and saving effect upon the wounded and tender heart of the afflicted. It is certainly working together with God, to improve seasons of affliction to instruct the afflicted, who always need, and not unfrequently desire pious instruction. It is the duty of every one, “in the day of prosperity to be joyful, but in the day of adversity to consider." No afflicted person will deny this to be his duty, and consequently must acknowledge the propriety of his hearkening to any serious religious considerations his pious relatives or friends may think fit to suggest. When God has prepared any by afflictions, to receive instruction from himself, he has equally prepared them to receive instruction from any who are able and disposed to instruct them; and therefore it becomes them to improve the favorable opportunity of doing good; which, if they neglect, may be followed with deplorable consequences.

4. If God employs chastenings as the most powerful means of instructing men in the knowledge of spiritual and divine things, then those who refuse instruction under his correcting hand, have reason to fear he will say concerning them, “Let them alone,” that they may perish in their ignorance. He has said, “ My Spirit shall not always strive with man.” He said of Israel, “ My people would not hearken to my voice, and Israel would none of me. So I gave them up unto their own hearts' lust; and they walked in their own counsels." He said to the same people, “ Because I have purged thee, and thou wast not purged, thou shalt not be purged from thy sins any more, till I have caused my fury to rest upon thee.” Our Saviour illustrated this alarming truth by one or two parables. One is the parable of the barren fig-tree. "A certain man had a fig-tree planted in his vineyard; and he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none. Then said he unto the dresser of his vineyard, Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig-tree, and find none; cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground?” The dresser of the vineyard plead for its being spared one year more, but consented, that if then it continued barren, it might and ought to be cut down. After means had so often failed, it was time to use them no longer. The other parable respected the man that had been awakened and reformed, but relapsed, and his last state was worse than

his first. It is to be feared that those who remain uninstructed, unreformed, and unaffected, under severe and repeated strokes of adversity, will be given up to pine away in their sins, without having any more powerful means of instruction used with them. God is continually confirming the declarations of his word, by the dispensations of his providence. How often are those, who have experienced and abused fiery trials and sore afflictions, left in a far more stupid, hardened, and dangerous state, than they were in before? The reason why afflictions harden those who abuse them, is because they do not regard them as expressions of God's displeasure and indignation towards them. The prophet said, “I will bear the indignation of the Lord, because I have sinned against him.” But those who abuse the chastenings of the Lord, bear them with fortitude, because they are blind to the hand of God who inflicts them. They applaud themselves for supporting the pain of afflictions, and feel more and more independent of God, and of course more and more disposed to despise him and all the instructions of both his word and providence, and resolve to maintain their peace, by maintaining their stupidity. They know not the day of their visitation, and therefore the things of their peace are hidden from their eyes, until they are destroyed without remedy.

5. Since God oftener instructs men in a time of adversity than in a time of prosperity, they have more reason to fear prosperity than adversity. They generally have no fear of enjoying ease, health, affluence, or any of the blessings of Providence; but they fear suffering pains, sickness, losses, disappointments, and bereavements. They overlook the evils which naturally and generally flow from prosperity, and the benefits which often flow from adversity. Prosperity tends to lead men to forget and forsake God, and to fasten their hearts to the world. But adversity has directly the opposite tendency, to lead men to God, and disengage their hearts from the world. Adversity disposes men to hear divine instruction, and prepares them to derive divine peace and consolation from divine instruction. But prosperity disposes men to disregard divine instruction, and to despise divine peace and consolation. A vast many more have been ruined for time and eternity by prosperity than by adversity. Adversity did Abraham more good than prosperity. Adversity did David more good than prosperity. Adversity did Hezekiah more good than prosperity. Adversity did Manasseh more good than prosperity. Adversity has done good men, in every age of the world, more good than prosperity. Those in prosperity have reason to rejoice with trembling, and those in adversity to rejoice with hope. The

means God is using with the prosperous are the means which he has most commonly used to fit men for destruction; and they will certainly produce this effect, unless he graciously prevents it by filling their hearts with love and gratitude, and causes them to rejoice in his goodness, rather than the good things he bestows upon them. They need to keep their hearts with all diligence, lest the cares and concerns and love of the world choke the instructions of his word, corrupt their hearts, and plunge them in temporal and eternal sorrow. But the means which God is using with the afflicted, are the means which he commonly uses to prepare men for salvation. And they will certainly prepare them for the inheritance of the saints in light, if they endure them with patience and submission, and cordially receive the divine instruction which they are suited to give them. If this be true, have not men more reason to fear prosperity than adversity; and to be more concerned to be thankful in prosperity than to enjoy it, and to be submissive in adversity than to suffer it? If either prosperity or adversity lead them to receive divine instruction, it will do them good; if not, it will do them hurt.

6. Let what has been said lead all to inquire whether they have ever derived any spiritual benefit from adversity. They have all been afflicted in some way or other, and can easily recollect the natural evil they have suffered under the chastising hand of God. They have not forgotten the bitter cups of the wormwood and the gall which God has given them to drink, but have them still in bitter reinembrance. But have you derived any spiritual benefit from your fiery trials or sore chastisements, which can enable you to say that it is good for you that you have been afflicted ? Have you been taught by your afflictions to search the scriptures, to hear and understand the great and important truths contained in the word of God with pleasure and satisfaction, and to derive light, peace and consolation from his great and precious promises to his mourning and disconsolate children? The Psalmist pronounces all those blessed whom God chastises, and teaches out of his law. Many have felt and said that they have never been more happy, than while suffering chastisement from the hand of their heavenly Father; and that they have enjoyed God, and even the world, more in seasons of adversity, than in seasons of outward prosperity. These are the happy fruits of sanctified afflictions, when God teaches men to profit. But when the heart and hand of God are overlooked in afflictions, they produce very different effects. They darken the understanding, stupify the conscience, corrupt the heart, wound the spirit, and destroy all inward peace and comfort. It is easy for every one to distinguish such different and opposite effects of afliction, and to determine whether their trials and troubles have done them spiritual good or spiritual evil. God has tried you, to know what is in your heart, and to make you know what manner of spirit you are of. The inquiry concerning your views and feelings, under past afflictions and bereavements, is highly important to yourselves, and must afford you hope or fear. This is more especially and immediately the duty of those who are still mourning and suffering under the afflictive hand of God. Though they have experienced many trials, and suffered many afflictions before, yet the present bereavement of an amiable wife, a dutiful daughter, and affectionate sister, is one of the sorest afflictions that any of the mourners have ever been called to endure. God is now using some of the best means to instruct you, and giving you the best opportunity to receive his instructions. He is teaching you the frailty and uncertainty of life, the vanity of all earthly hopes and prospects, and the importance of deriving your highest peace and consolation from the precious truths and promises of the gospel. The belief and love of divine truth will afford you comfort and support under your present afflictions, prepare you for any new troubles or trials, and above all, fit you for leaving this evil world, and entering into that rest which remains for the people of God. The grave is waiting for all, and sooner or later all must lodge in that dark and silent mansion ; but the aged and infirm are just ready to step into it. We know not, however, who stands next on death's commission; whether the aged, or the middle-aged, or the young.

Finally, this subject opens a gloomy and awful prospect to those who have never profited in the school of affliction. If God treats men so severely to make them receive the instructions of his word, how much more severely will he treat those who despise, disregard and reject the instructions of his word ? “ He that being often reproved, hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy.” And, “ If the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?”

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