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SERMON IX.

On the tendency of afflictions to form the chris

tian character.

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“Now, no chastening, for the present, seemeth to be joy. ous, but grievous ; nevertheless, afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby."

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IT perplexed the sages of antiquity to reconcile many parts of the plan of providence, with the justice and goodness of the Governour of the world ; and it has often disquieted the minds of good men to behold the exaltation of the wicked, and the depression of the right

The wiser among the heathens had, in general, recourse to the supposition of a future state, wherein men would be rewarded or punished according to their actions and characters; and christians have trusted, with humble resignation, in the wisdom of that Being

eous.

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who makes light to arise out of darkness, and order out of confusion.

Indeed, though clouds and darkness frequently surround the Supreme Being, yet justice and judgment are always the habitation of his throne. Though his

ways are often beyond the reach of mortal cyes, yet his plan, when completed, shall be found consistent with the most perfect goodness and rectitude. For, though pain and evil cannot be emanations from the divine attributes, they may still be essential parts of the divine administration, considered as means to an end, and as tending to promote the perfection of the christian character.

The question, then, is whether afflictions have such an influence? The Apostle says they have : they yield the peaceable

fruit of righteousness to those who are exer“cised thereby.” To illustrate this proposition, is the object of this discourse.

It will, therefore, be necessary

1. To explain the effects which, by the assistance of the Spirit, afflictions are calculated to produce upon the heart and character of christians.

II. To state those conclusions which obyiously arise from the subject.

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The present is evidently a state of probation, wherein man is bred up amidst trials and hardships, and thereby fitted for a more perfect state in another scene of existence. The progress of sanctification is gradual ; and it is only after long discipline and much correction that the child of God becomes complete in holiness. If, at regeneration, the corruption of the sinner were totally removed ; if the seeds of grace, when once implanted in the soul, did instantly grow up to maturity, then, it might be difficult to perceive, either, the necessity or utility of afflictions. But in this mixed state of things, when even in the best of men, there is a law in the members which wars against the law of the mind, afflictions become highly necessary to aid the exertions of the latter, and to promote the christian's growth in grace. For scripture, experience, and the reason of the thing must convince us that they are excellent ministers to bring men unto Christ,

It must be observed, however, and the observation refers to the whole of this discourse, that, afflictions can produce no good effect, where they do not meet with grace in the heart. Unless God's spirit co-operate with his providence, means, otherwise the most proper, will be without avail. Unless the Spirit descend as showers

upon

the

mown grass, the fiery trial will consume the christian. Pain and evil, murmuring, hardness of heart, and despair seem to be the immediate and natural consequences of afflictions. They are salutary only by remote consequence, and as a means appointed by the heavenly Father for the reformation of his children. This idea is evidently suggested in the text, by the phrase “ them that are exercised thereby.”. For unless men are properly exercised under afflictions, and the influences of the spirit accompany them, they will never yield the peaceable fruit of righteousness. But, accompanied with this divine influence, they are the best means of improvement in holiness, which must be the ultimate object of the government of God.

1. Afflictions bring those who are exercised by them to serious reflection, and consequently to self communion, and a correction of their faults. Mankind are at all times averse from an examination of their own heart and conduct. Busily employed in the search for knowledge, wealth, honour and pleasure,

every thing around them attracts their notice, but they will by no means turn their attention to themselves, or inquire into what passes within their own breast. This natural disposition of mankind exerts itself with full force when the candle of the Lord shines bright upon them. Levity, thoughtlessness and inattention are the almost necessary consequences of an uninterrupted course of prosperity. In full possession of health and spirits, flushed with success, and elevated with farther hopes, men seldom bestow a serious thought upon their present state or their future destination. They pass on, amused with the noise and splendour that attend them, without once thinking whence they came, or whither they are going

But when God chastens them with adversity, and removes the amusing and vain show which is such an enemy to thought, then refection must take place. The sanguine hopes and flattering ideas, which prosperity cherished, disappear when the evil day comes.A thousand gay insects flutter in the summer's sun, which the blasts of winter sweep from the face of the earth. And when the storm bowls around, and every thing external presents a

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