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needful discipline :-"My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: for whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth'.'
Your chiefest and most earnest desire will be to gain from this trial, whatever it may be, all the good which it is meant to convey. God forbid that it should pass away without having accomplished its purpose. For such visitations of affliction never leave any man exactly where he was before. Either they advance him on his heavenward way, teach him to live above the world's slavery, and nerve him for his daily conflicts or else, when slighted, they render his condition far less hopeful; the chains of earth press more heavily, and the heart sinks down into a deeper slumber than ever. It is thus that afflictions are such turning-points in a life's history; to many they are most abundantly blessed; the holiest and the best are, through God's grace, made better by them: to many, alas! they are but occasions of still further alienation from God.
But you will inquire what, under these circumstances of trial, you are to do; what are the means by which you are to seek for the blessings you desire to obtain. For you clearly perceive that the mere presence of this trial cannot possibly benefit or bless you, but that it must be in some way made use of.
1 Heb. xii. 5, 6.
First, then, let it be to you an occasion of approaching to God with a quickened diligence and a more confiding love. Cultivate habits of devotion: so essential to the peace and health of your soul. Pray much and earnestly; that He would graciously "sanctify this his fatherly correction to you," that He would " renew in you whatsoever hath been decayed by the fraud and malice of the devil, or by your own carnal will and frailness," that while you live "you may live to Him, and be an instrument of his glory, by serving Him faithfully, and doing good in your generation," that He may give you a right understanding of yourself, and of his threats and promises," that He may be Himself "your defence, and make you know and feel that there is none other name under heaven given to man, in whom and through whom you may receive health and salvation, but only the name of our Lord Jesus Christ1."
The languor and weariness of extreme illness will sometimes form a serious hindrance to frequent and collected prayer. Yet this should be earnestly combated with, and may often in a great measure be overcome. Where the exhaustion is very great, and the powers of speech and almost of connected thought really fail, God will graciously accept, for prayer, the looking of the heart towards Him; for "He knoweth our frame, he remembereth that we are but dust."
1 Prayer Book. Visitation of the Sick.
Go continually to the blessed word of God for guidance and consolation: let it be "a lantern to your feet, and a light unto your path." Be a frequent and faithful partaker of the Holy Eucharist, to "the strengthening and refreshing of your soul." If you are debarred by sickness or infirmity from frequenting the public services of the Church, yet be often in spirit with those who go up to the house of the Lord, following them with your prayers and sympathy. You are not forgotten there, where remembrance is made before God of the weariness of the bed of pain, and the loneliness of the aching heart. For you supplication is made in those prayers which are offered up for all "who are afflicted and distressed in mind, body, or estate;" for all "that are in danger, necessity, or tribulation;" for all "who are in trouble, sorrow, need, sickness, or any other adversity."
Meantime you will remember to what end these means are designed to conduct you. You will then most highly appreciate them, when you know them but as means; when you feel that sacraments, and prayers, and God's word, will fail utterly of their object if they do not produce in you, through the blessed Spirit working in and by them, conformity of heart and life to the holy will of God.
This is the great purpose to be accomplished in each one of us. For this were we born into the world; for this have we been kept in life hitherto ; for this our Lord Jesus Christ gave Himself for us, that "He might purify to himself a peculiar people,
zealous of good works;" that "denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we might live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world;" that being justified for his merit sake, we might, as becomes his ransomed people, "glorify God in our body, and in our spirit, which are God's."
But you ask how, in the sick chamber to which, it may be, you are confined-how, in the narrow span which, perhaps, is all that is left to you of life, you can thus glorify God.
If your's is a truly teachable spirit, this question will be soon answered. You will soon learn that sickness and sorrow bring with them peculiar duties and responsibilities. He to whom you belong will give you not only patience to suffer, but strength to do: and as this strength increases, your sphere of action will enlarge itself around you.
In protracted sickness how many are the trials through which you have to pass; how many victories over self you have to win. How much is there for which your sick room is perhaps the very fittest place, with the multiplied occasions which it affords for the full exercise of Faith, and Hope, and Love.
For this is not, in truth, a narrow sphere in which God has placed you. You know how that some
even of the lowest forms of heathenism witness to the great truth, that man's heart has always been craving for union with a nature higher than his own: and you know too, that the necessity, the provision for, and the conditions of this union form the main
subject of God's revelation to man. If you, on that bed of suffering, are learning by experience the full blessing of this unspeakable union, you will not complain that your circle of privilege and duty is too limited. You are not left there alone; some better portion is your's than the cold abstractions of a false philosophy, which, because it has caught some faint and broken echoes of the Christian truth, still speaks of goodness, virtue, and purity, but which never leads man to Him who is the Good, the Holy, and the Pure; and which cannot offer even the poorest substitute for the presence of that living Friend, union and communion with whom is the deepest reality of the Christian life.
Perhaps those who are suffering from protracted sickness have most need to watch against that cold exclusive temper of mind which would tempt them to put away every thing which does not seem to bear directly on their own separate religious condition. Such a temper would greatly impede your progress, and weaken your spiritual life; while it would rob you of that true fellowship with the family of Christ, for which the Church, as we have already seen, has made provision in her special remembrances of you and of your sufferings; and would close your heart against her loving sympathy. Be, on the contrary, drawn out of yourself towards others, participate in their interests, pray for them and seek their good, and set yourself to lessen the weight of sin and suffering around you. Doubtless you can do much to benefit and bless your brethren; by