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špirit of a man will sustain his infirmity, but a wounded spirit who can bear?”
As to others whose dejection ärises from external causes, they will hardly hope to find comfort in their weakness, from those reflections which they despised in their strength.
The means which occur to me as most likely to fortify us against afflictions, and to sustain us under them, are,
1. Not to be too studious of happiness in this life;to consider the present world as a state of probation, rather than enjoyment, and to study therefore to moderate our wishes, and spiritualize our affections. Much of the misery of youth, and no small share of the unhappiness of riper years, arise from our too great eagerness after felicity That man will not frequently nor long be wretched, whose heart is really in heaven; who, knowing that he has here no abiding mansion, seeks the glory of God, without being ambitious of the honour, or even very solicitous for the conveniences of this world. He who cherishes no expectations, can suffer no disappointments. He who has little, can lose little. If we walk as pilgrims, we shall walk "safely. Cantabit vacuus coram latrone viator. Even in the days of feudal anarchy, the palmer, protected only by his staff and amice, was always sacred from injury.
2. To put our trust in God, casting all our cares on him, in the full persuasion that he careth for us. Properly speaking, we should mourn for nothing but sin, for we know that the world is under the constant governance of perfect wisdom, power, and goodness. What then can we fear; what can we lament, but resistance to his will ? Laying however metaphysics aside, we know and are assured that “all things shall work together for good to them that love God.” Well therefore may we rejoice in tribulation, while we continue the dutiful children of God. If we are afflicted, we know that we ought to be afflicted, and may kiss the rod which smites us. A deep practical conviction of the constant agency of the Almighty, is the great source of consolation allowed us, amid the fearful and perplexing changes of this world. He only can be securely happy who in spite of the apparent confusion with which men and things, actions and sufferings, good and evil, are mingled together, can recognize by faith a latent order;
Can lift to heaven an unpresumptuous eye,
And smiling say, My Father made them all. " The earth may shake, the pillars of the world may tremble under us, the countenance of the heaven may
appalled, the sun may lose his light, the moon her beauty, and the stars their glory; but concerning the man that trusteth in God, he knows in whom he hath believed, he is not ignorant whose precious blood hath been shed for him, he hath a Shepherd full of kindness, full of care, and full of power." HOOKER,
3. To love and live with our Christian brethren. Tillotson's definition of happiness is “ to enjoy what we desire, and to live with those we love." Indeed, a large portion of our happiness in life being dependent on others, common sense will teach us to associate intimately with those, whose opinions, tastes, and tempers accord to our own. Never was a more bountiful provision made for the happiness of Christians, than in that injunction of their blessed Master" Love one another." I have often thought that all the evils of contempt and persecution which the primitive brethren endured, were probably more
than compensated by the closeness of their union in Christ, and the ardour of their mutual affections; an union cemented by their common dangers; affections heightened by their common sufferings.
Each of the three topics which I have been urging, admits of great expansion. I have only touched them cursorily. The first remedy is preventive, and diminishes the power of earthly disasters to injure us. The second may enable us to sustain afflictions with cheerful firmness. And the third provides a fund of benign enjoyment, which may brighten the most brilliant, and cheer our darkest moments.
I know that Christianity supplies numberless other means of consolation, and sources of joy. I do not even know that those which I have selected are always the most efficient; but they seem to me the most certain and the most easy of attainment. The ardour of divine love, the aspirations of piety, the hopes of immortal glory, may pour into the mind in its happier moments a flood of holy rapture. These heavenly desires and affections are however a little dependent on the animal frame, and where there is any tendency to constitutional dejection, will sometimes fail even the best of men. But to detach ourselves from the things of this world, to repose confidently on our God, and to derive pleasure from the company of good men, are attainments (if I may so term them) always
The proper use of our common faculties, and the proper direction of our natural feelings, are the only requisites.
To conclude.--It is not altogether useless to shew that the melancholy observable in religious men, may be sufficiently accounted for, and Christianity cleared of an un
open to all,
grounded charge. The infidel is thus checked in his triumphs, and the secret, but uneasy apprehensions of some weak brethren perhaps removed. Yet we have little reason to mourn over the sufferers. The Father of mercy chastens not his children without a cause, and happy are they who are thought worthy of his paternal correction. Afflictions indeed of every kind“ for the present seem grievous;” and grievous they will seem, while we abide in this fleshly tabernacle, where sense, not reason, presides. Yet let us not forget the words of the Roman historian, which Hooker so happily applies to the servants of Christ, complaining of the hardships they endure in his service. Ego sic existimabam (uti patrem sæpe meum prædicantem audiveram) qui vestram amicitiam colerent, eos multum laborem suscipere, cæterum ex omnibus maxime tutos esse.” Alas, what is it we lament? That we are safe in a world of danger, and pay the price of a few tears for immortal glory. Is this rational, is it manly ? Surely the hour shall come, when after a thousand ages spent in advancing happiness, we shall look back on the light and shade which chequered these days of our infancy, with the same complacent pity which we feel at the tears and smiles of a baby, manage to make even a short life seem long, by the multitude of our cares; yet all the mighty events which have swelled the annals of six thousand years shall one day be confounded, and appear but a single and transient point in the long perspective. Even while we are still mortal, while our ears ring with the busy hum around us, and our senses are continually drawing us off from divine enjoyments, those senses are mercifully ordained to be their own correctives, and become the monitors of true wisdom. We may listen fondly to the voice of fiattery, but we must hear too
the voice of affliction. The same eye which sees the pleasures of the world, surveys also its vicissitudes; and aw, ful are these lessons. The scenes of this life, whether bright with joy, or darkened with horror, pass swiftly by. The great and the wise are dropping around us. Empires are changing their limits; new dynasties and new kingdoms rise before us as we gaze. The prince of the power of this world triumphs. “Yet the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat; the earth also, and the works that are therein, shall be burnt up. Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought we to be in all holy conversation and godliness?"
“It remains, that they that weep, be as though they wept not; and they that rejoice, as though they rejoiced not; for the fashion of this world passeth away."