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DEPRESSION OF MIND IN AFFLICTION.
Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take,
The clouds ye so much dread,
In blessings on your head.
Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust him for his grace ;
He hides a smiling face.
will ripen fast,
But sweet will be the flower.
IF THOU FAINT IN THE DAY OF ADVERSITY, THY STRENGTH IS SMALL
PROVERBS XXIV., X.
In affliction there are two extremes to which we are liable, and against which we are cautioned by an apostle; " my son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him.” We are neither presumptuously to brave affliction, nor despondingly to sink under it. In either case, the consequences, as to religion, are most ruinous. Sad, indeed, is the condition of that man, who in the time of affliction gives himself up to gloom and despondency. His mind becomes like the ocean when tossed by the tempest—it is thrown into a state of confusion, perplexity, and agitation: fretted by anxiety, and alarmed by fear, he dwells with bitter reflections on the miseries he endures,-feeds upon his own melancholy,--and is tempted curse the day of his birth. Life becomes a burden ; he turns away from the voice of christian sympathy, and the counsels of inspiration, for he says “my case is hopeless.” He murmurs and repines hardens himself in his sorrow, and cries, “oh ! that it would please the Lord to destroy me.” His thoughts rest on those subjects only which tend to torment, and which defeat the end of providential chastisement. Various causes may operate in producing this state of mind, and these require to be distinctly traced, that wherever it exists the sufferer may be guided to its true source.
In some cases it arises from the remembrance of past sin. All misery is the effect of sin ; it naturally, therefore, reminds us of it. Itis for this reason that men so generally regard affliction as the effect of God's displeasure. The catastrophe at the tower of Siloam led the Jews to conclude that they who perished were sinners above all others in Jerusalem. When the barbarians saw the viper fasten on the hand of Paul, they said among themselves, “no doubt this man is a murderer, whom, though he hath escaped the sea, yet vengeance suffereth not to live." And though we are much more disposed to judge others by this erroneous rule than ourselves, “yet there is something in calamity,” says Madame de Stael, " that tends to make all minds superstitious.” It would have been more correct had she said, that tends to revive the remembrance of a moral providence, and the belief of a connection between sin and punishment. This is more especially the ease when afflictions are sudden and unlooked for, when they are heavy and of long continuance, or possess a peculiarity of character. Joseph's brethren, when they were accused as
spies, and threatened with punishment, said one to another, “we are verily guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the anguish of his soul, when he besought us and we would not hear; therefore is this distress come upon us.” Even good men have not always been able to resist such impressions and conclusions. Gideon said, “if the Lord be with us, why then is this evil befallen us?” and the pious widow of Sarephath, upon the loss of her child, said to the prophet, “ what have I to do with thee, O thou man of God! art thou come to call my sin to remembrance, and to slay my son ?” The poet tells us, “ behind a frowning providence he hides a smiling face ;” but he does hide it. The frown is visible enough,-sense can see that; but the smi can only be apprehended by faith: there are some, however, whom Bunyan designates “ little faith;” though sincere, they are diffident and timorous; their confidence is weak and fluctuating, and they are prone to faint in the day of adversity because their strength is small. But it is in the case of sinners we find the most striking exemplification, particularly when they have gone to great lengths in sin.
It is not unusual for such persons, when brought into deep affliction, to regard it as an indication not only of God's indignation, but also of the hopelessness of their state: their past sins are brought to remembrance; they view tliem under the influence of gloomy and depressed feelings; they dwell upon their number, their aggravation, and desert: perhaps some peculiar sin rests like an intolerable burden upon the conscience. Under the united influence of remorse and despondency they give up all for lost, and conclude that all they suffer is but the presage
of still greater woes in the world to come. Thus the heart becomes hardened by despair, and the sinner turns away
from all considerations but those which tend to rivet him to his sins, and to keep him from Christ as the saviour of the lost. With
many it is to be ascribed to the weight and severity of their affliction. Perhaps it presents an aspect altogether peculiar, or many troubles meet together, like dark clouds in winter, wbich by their union quite intercept the rays of tlie sun. Had it been a common affliction, they persuade them · selves they could have borne it; but a calamity so heavy is more than they can bear. They adopt the strong language of Job, as expressive of their own feelings, “oh ! that my grief were thoroughly weighed, and my calamity laid in the balance together! for now it would be heavier than the sand of the sea : therefore my words are swallowed up. For the arrows of the Almighty are within me, the poison whereof drinketh up my spirits : the terrors of God do set themselves in array against me.” Perhaps this trouble originates in some painful bereavement. The desire of their eyes—the delight of their heart is taken away at a stroke! Perhaps he is taken away upon whom their comfort and very subsistence depended. Who is this that sits solitary and dejected ? Inattentive to every thing passing around her, she is ruminating on days that are past; and comforts that are lost for ever. She looks forward to mouruful hours; to difficulties and dangers. Her face is overcast with gloom, her eyes are red with weeping, her bosom heaves, and she says, “call me not Naomi,” that is pleasant, “ but call me Mara,” that is bitter, “ for the Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me." It is the newlymade widow. She has lost the support of her life, the joy of her soul. She is left with a numerous family ;--she is friendless. Weak and delicate, she is unable to struggle with difficulties; she fears that in a little time sickness, or even death, may overtake her, and then she must leave her children to the world, as poor and helpless orphans. Pitiable case! can we wonder that her spirit is sad, or that her heart bleeds with anguish? Perhaps the affliction is in their worldly circumstances ;-they have lost their property-all they had is gone. They are brought down at once to poverty; disappointed in all their hopes; unable to meet the imperious demands that are made upon them; surrounded by a large family looking to them for support; is it surprising that calamity weighs down their spirits? Perhaps their trouble arises from their family connections. They are doomed to drag out life with those whose base tempers and whose baser conduct are intolerable. They have to bear the consequences of their imprudences and their crimes ; day by day their prospects become darker, and their trials more difficult to be borne. Perhaps the affliction is a painful and continued sickness: the hand of God is upon the family or upon the person. It is an affliction that deprives them of social comfort; and robs the family of all enjoyment. It is sometimes exceedingly painful and alarming. Means of every description have been used without effect, and now they have only to say, “ this is our affliction, and we must bear it.” In all these cases it is easy to observe the direct influence of affliction upon the mind. It is not a sin to feel the pain which it inflicts, for then must the sufferer be something more or less than man.
The degree of sorrow is allowed to be proportioned to the degree of affliction ; but when sorrow militates against the salvation of the soul-wlien it causes us to omit incumbent duties, or to commit sin by indulging tempers inconsistent with our obligations and circumstances, we ought to remember, that no weight of affliction will justify our conduct, or extenuate our crime.
The strength of our passions is another cause of depression. Far be it from me to intimate that the passions are sinful; this would be nothing less than to reflect on the infinite wisdom of the Creator, who, for purposes worthy of himself, has implanted them in our nature. Human life, without the kindly influence of the passions would present a cheerless, insipid, and uninteresting scene ; a group of insulated beings destitute of all those feelings which link man to man, and awaken all the pleasures of social life. The endear