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to most men so unaccountable. He is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption; and in him we are to walk, rooted and grounded in him. Union to him we receive at our spiritual birth; but that communion with him, and dependance on his grace which ought to result from the union which subsists, we are slow to understand, and still more so to practise: we grope in the dark, seeking something to help us forward in the way of holiness, and take up with any thing that comes to hand, instead of abiding steadily in Christ. Hence, whatever has a tendency to keep him before our minds, is of the highest importance to us. Now affliction may do it: for as a person will naturally take great interest in those sufferings of others which correspond to his own, and the books which describe these, and the persons
who have felt them, will possess a particular interest in his view, so the disciple of Christ will be disposed to look to his Master and consider his example. In his life (for he was a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief) the suffering Christian will find something analogous to his own case: for in all things he was made like unto his brethren-in all points he was tempted like as we are, yet without sin.* And though we may urge that our Lord could have had no conflict with sin, which
may be perhaps our severest trial, yet he determined to have the nearest experience of that too, that a spotless being could have: namely, by submitting to the temptations of Satan, by which means he became acquainted with our trials arising from corruption; for the suggestions of corruption and those of Satan are scarcely to be distinguished by the most discriminating judgments. Finding then, in Christ's sufferings, a counterpart of our own, we shall love to contemplate him, and remark his conduct-his resignation and self-denial, and thus shall gradually acquire a similarity of sentiment, and a union of heart with the blessed Jesus! Such consideration of the sufferings of Christ is itself an act of a life of faith upon him; but one exercise of it leads to another. While our sufferings keep Jesus and his sufferings in our view, we shall not be so apt to forget the nature and object of those sufferings of his; we shall rejoice to think that it was out of love to ourselves that he died for us--that as a reward for all he underwent as our surety, he has received an unmeasurable fulness of the Spirit for his people, especially his afflicted ones, who most need it: hence, we shall cast our souls with all their misery upon him--trust to his tender care for watching by us while we are refining in the furnace of affliction—and expect to receive grace to help us in every time of need. Let it not be forgotten, on the other hand, that the suffering condition of his people is of itself a sufficient reason for Christ's looking down upon them with peculiar regard; even before they call he answers-gives them patience and comes of his own accord to bless them with extraordinary manifestations of his presence. As the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ. As
* Heb. iv, 15.
ye are partakers of the sufferings, so shall ye be also of the consolation.* Upon the whole then, it is certain that a state of tribulation improves our spiritual knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ, by inducing an application to his grace, and by drawing down communications from his fulness.
Probably the experience of many of my hearers will suggest many other uses of affliction; but with the three before mentioned we shall close as considering them the most comprehensive and important.
Let us before we conclude, address the different
persons who compose this assembly. Afflicted brethren, is it a sad necessity imposed upon us that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom? O no! if such be its precious effects, let us not be startled at affliction, nor provoke God to listen to our prayers for its premature removal. Be patient, therefore, and while nature pours her complaints, use no undue method of being rid of your trouble, but be more anxious for the accomplishment of the purposes of affliction, than for the removal of it. 'Is it too much to require you to rejoice in it? The patient who is assured of cure, does not act properly who only resigns himself to the physician sullenly; he should do it with alacrity, and joy; and thus you are ex
• 1 Cor. 1, 5.
horted by the Apostles to be rejoicing in tribulation; to be strengthened with all might according to his glorious power, into all patience, and long suffering, with joyfulness; to count it all joy when you fall into divers temptations; to glory in infirmities: for unto you it is given, on the behalf of Christ, not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for his sake. It is a high privilege to believe in him; but how much more to suffer for him? After all the false dimensions which an exaggerating fancy, disordered by fear, will assign to our troubles, how small are they! small indeed for creatures escaped from hell
! But to let this alone, how small are they, For the sufferings of the present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us! And our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more èxceeding and eternal weight of Glory.*
Because it has been said that tribulation is unavoidable, let not the inexperienced Christian be discouraged at being, in a great measure, a stranger to such trouble, as if his exemption were a proof of unsoundness, for God, in wisdom permits us to be tried in proportion to our strength. Beware, therefore, of courting persecution, lest the cross you bring upon yourself, you shall be obliged to bear yourself
; by and by, tribulation and persecution will arise because of the word.
For the careless part of my audience, this subject will possess little interest. They will say that this is to dress religion in a black attire she never meant to wear; that what they have heard has been probably dictated by misanthropic spleen, and written with a pen dipt deep in melancholy. They resolve, if they have any religion it shall be such as shall leave them in full possession of the pleasures of this world, for that is the amiable religion of our Savior. But what says Christ? Woe unto you that are full! for ye shall hunger. Woe unto you that laugh now! for ye shall mourn and weep. Woe unto you when all men shall speak well of you! for so did the fathers to the false Prophets. Your exemption therefore, from spiritual trouble is a privilege by no means enviable Not to mention the emptiness of carnal pleasure, let me ask, what are the reflections of persons on their death bed? Are they pleased at having declined the cross, and lived in yanity, and the favor of the world? No; they reflect, how much better it would have been to have fought bravely the battles of God, and through the blood of opposing enemies have waded to a throne on high. Then consider the matter brethren. Sit down and count the cost. Choose rather through grace, to suffer tribulation with the people of God. Won by the love of Christ in suffering for you, be not unwilling to suffer a little for him: so when the sorrows of the world are beginning, yours shall end. When, with all the nations that forget God, they shall be turned into hell, you shall join the redeemed
* 2 Cor. iv, 17.