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dreary picture, we must of necessity have recourse to reflection, and must fall into that thoughtful state of mind which is most favourable to improvement in knowledge and religion.

When our attention is thus roused, and our mind is brought to serious reflection, heart and conduct are the first objects of our inquiry. Conscience is awakened and brings in review before us our former ways. turally ask, what sin we have committed, of which we have not repented ; what vicious habit we have persisted in during the repose of conscience; what secret indulgence we have taken, at which reason, deluded by prosperity, winked, but for which God now chastizes us.

This was the case with Joseph's brethren. In their prosperous days, their ill treatment of their brother did not once recur to their mind. But when famine and distress came upon them ; when they were obliged to leave their country in quest of the necessaries of life ; and when they were confined and threatened with death in a foreign land, then did better reflections arise ; "and they " 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.”

Afflictions, by thus awakening our attention, and quickening a sense of sin and a sorrow for it, yield the peaceable fruit of righteousness. Sloth and inactivity are peculiarly hurtful to a christian. While the man in the parable slept, the enemy came, and sowed tares among his wheat. Whatever, therefore, excites men to watchfulness and care must be highly useful to prevent the success of temptation, and the progress of sin, as well as to encourage the growth of the divine seed which is sown in the heart.

An uninterrupted flow of ease and tranquillity lulls the mind into a fatal indolence and insensibility about religious concerns. Some judgment or mark of God's displeasure is, then, necessary to purge our dross, to rouse us to a serious sense of religion, and to make us discern and value the things that belong to our peace, ere they be for ever hid from our eyes : just as when the atmosphere is full of noxious and pestilential vapours, some violent storm or thunder is necessary to disperse them, to clear the infected

air, and to restore the sickly sky to its former health and benignity.

It deserves to be remarked here, that, though men are led to an amendment of their

ways by that connection, which exists in the divine administration, between sin and suffering, yet with respect to good men, afflictions cannot be considered as the punishment of that sin on account of which they are inflicted. Punishment is the execution of the divine law, but has not in view the reformation of the offender. The sorrow, and pain, and misfortune which befal the wicked, whose eyes are closed, and whose ears are dull of hearing, can be nothing but punishment. They are the foretastes of that bitter cup which is in the hand of the Lord, and the dregs whereof shall be wrung out and drunk by the wicked of the earth.

The afflictions of the righteous, on the other hand, are but for the hour of this life ; they are but as preparatory to the full enjoyment of the blessings of immortality. They are wholesome checks to keep the children of God in mind of their dependence, and of their engagement in the warfare of Christ. They are the bitter medicines which the divine Physician of souls employs for the recovery of those in whom there is no soundness.

The authour of the 119th psalm expresses, in a few words, the ideas contained in this particular. “ It is good for me that I have • been afflicted. Before I was afflicted, I “ went astray ; but now have I kept thy 66 word. I thought on my ways, and turned my

seet unto thy testimonies. I made « haste, and delayed not to keep thy com" mandments.”

2. Afflictions work the peaceable fruit of righteousness, by detaching our thoughts and affections from the things of this life, and fixing them upon the more rational and certain enjoyments to be looked for in an immortal state. Nothing can be a greater enemy to the growth of religion than the profits and pleasures of this world. Our Lord compares them to briars and thorns which sprang up and choked the good seed that was sown among them. Nor is it surprising that they should have this effect. While we are careful and troubled about many things, we are very apt to forget the one thing needful. What is seen, and is near, makes a lively and deep impression on the mind, and is, for the most part,

preferred to what is unseen, though eternal. Accordingly, there is no advice which is given more frequently, or with greater earnestness, by our Lord and his disciples, than that which the Apostle Paul has couched in these words : Set your affections on things above, and not on things on the earth.” To obey this direction must, at all times, be laborious to creatures so nearly allied to earth as we are, and who have so many desires that are for ever beset by the alluring objects of gratification that lie within the sphere of this mortal Ilfe. But it is a work of peculiar difficulty in the season of prosperity. We cannot but be attached to a scene in which every thing smiles upon us : we cannot but take delight in a situation where all is harmony and loveliness.

To counteract this influence, a general conviction of the vanity of life, and of the necessity of more rational pursuits, may have some weight with thinking men. But reverse of circumstances, and the sufferings under calamity, are motives addressed to all men, the foolish as well as the wise. They are easily understood; they come home to one's self; they go directly to the heart. If, for example, our situation in life has, in the course of provi


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