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Sun of Righteousness rose upon you, and dispersed the clouds of sorrow and suffering and after the Spirit of consolation comforted you with all the consolations of God,—say, if ever any joy you felt upon earth equalled, or was to be compared to that which you felt, when your transgressions were forgiven, and your sins covered, and you tasted the blessedness of those to whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity. Your former sorrow for sin, the bitterness of grief, and the pangs of remorse, augmented the joy you felt when the Lord said, Your sins are forgiven you. And cannot we all testify, that after we have felt the cravings of hunger, and the burnings of thirst-after we have felt the langour of weariness, and the dreariness of solitude and darkness-the simplest food and the hardest bed have yielded us more real gratification, than the most sumptuous fare when the appetite was cloyed, or the softest couch when the body was pampered? None will deny, that we enjoy prosperity a great deal better after we have drunk the bitter waters of adversity. If it were not for the benefit of His children, God would not subject them so often, and so much to privations, and crosses, and sufferings, and reproaches, and persecutions. He doth not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men; but whom the Lord loveth, He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth. It is, doubtless, to increase the joy of His people in heaven, that the Lord seemingly overwhelmeth them with the waves and billows of sorrow and suffering upon earth. And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they? And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said unto me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and inade them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple; and He that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more, neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. For the Lamb, which is in the midst of the throne, shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters; and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes. In addition to previous suffering enhancing our rejoicing, to be delivered from imminent perils, is also, upon retrospect, a source of joy. The sailor, the soldier, and the traveller, as well as the patriot, the statesman, and philanthropist, each and all of them, have their pleasure increased upon a review of the difficulties they have surmounted, and the dangers they have escaped. If they have
endeavoured to keep the glory of God and the good of mankind steadily in view, they feel a glow of pleasure in their virtuous, though even obscure retirement, which the favour and fullness of this world cannot impart; nor its frown, and its neglect, and contempt, greatly impair. Do not we feel a sensation of satisfaction unutterable, after we have narrowly escaped the earthquake's reeling devastation, or the volcanoes sweeping eruption, or even the forked-lightning's flash, or the storm and tempest's drenching and devouring flood, and the hurricane's sweeping and overwhelming blast.
The people of God have some knowledge of what they have endured; but they can have no understanding of what they have escaped. How little do they know often of the designs of men, and the devices of Satan? How little do they know often of the fire and the water through which they have been brought, unburnt and undrowned, to a safe and a settled place? It is only after we have traversed the thorny path of life, that we can look back and survey, without fear, the brakes and thickets, seemingly impenetrable, through which we have been safely guided, and completely guarded. But it is only when we have passed through life, and even death, and ascended the heights of Zion, that we can look back with joy, and say, Goodness and mercy have followed us all our days; and we shall dwell in the house of the Lord for ever. It was a wise advice, Let not him that girdeth on his armour boast like him who putteth it off. One among the richest kings that ever lived perceived clearly the truth of the saying, That no man ought to be accounted happy before death. As long as the stream of time is to us running, and its never-ceasing wheel turning, we can never tell whether our condition is to be prosperous or adverse. The constant and invariably successive changes of summer and winter, and of day and night, ad nonish us loudly of the mutability and uncertainty of the tenure of life, and its pursuits and acquirements. But after we have overcome the last enemy, then we may give full scope to our joy, because there can be no more sin, nor suffering, nor dissolution. The troubles and afflictions of life, the pains and diseases of the body, seem often great and severe, and almost unsupportable; but what are they compared with the doubts, the distractions, and the despair of the soul. The spirit of a man may sustain his infirmity; but a wounded spirit, who can bear? If it would not profit a man if he were to gain the whole world and lose his own soul, the dangers and escapes of the body are not to be compared with those of the immortal soul. When the redeemed shall hear the gladdening sentence,
Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world, they can then judge, by contrast, while they feel the soul thrilling with joy, what would have been the pangs of remorse and despair had the sentence been reversed, and they had heard this awful language pronounced, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels. How could they have dwelt with devouring fire? How could they have dwelt with everlasting burnings? How could they have been confined in the endless darkness of horror and despair, with those, the smoke of whose torment ascendeth up for ever and ever? How could they have borne to have been excluded from the presence of that God in whose presence is life? To be separated from an earthly friend, is like the tearing asunder of the joints and marrow; but how awful and heart-rending the separation from the Father of their spirits, their great and glorious Redeemer, their holy and comforting Sanctifier! nay, even from the great and the good, the spirits of just men made perfect, and all the glorious hosts of heaven! Ah! my friends, we can form no conception of this awful, horrible anguish. May we, through divine mercy embraced, and cherished, and improved, never feel this unutterable separation. While many of the people of God stood in doubt, what would they have given to have had the least gleam of hope? But how is the scene changed when the day breaks, and the shadows flee away, and they feel the fullness of joy which is in their Father's presence, and the inexhaustible pleasures which are at His right hand for evermore. They might. for anything that they could do, and for anything that they knew, have perished. How many of them were, all their lifetime, through fear of death, subject to bondage; but now their happiness and their holiness is sure as the existence of God. The mountains may depart, and the hills be removed-suns and systems may be annihilated-space and duration may be confounded; but their state is immoveable and unchangeable as the throne of the Eternal. The immense price that was paid for their redemption-the full and perfect obedience that was rendered to the eternal law-the complete and all-prevailing intercession-the heart-convincing application and consolation by the Eternal Spirit-the varied ways and means by which the Great Mediator led them-will all rise in endless and boundless perspective before their wondering eyes. They will, perhaps, see how often they might and must have perished, had not restraining, preventing, and securing mercy prevented. They will recollect how often they went astray like lost sheep. As the eagle on his elevated
height, and with his penetrating eye, observes the smallest bird that wings its devious course, so they, exalted on high beyond the reach of woe, will be able to survey all the intricate and dangerous mazes of human life through which they have been led; and they will perceive, that if their Redeemer had ever slumbered or slept, had ever fainted, or had ever been weary, they must have finally perished. Their language then will be, Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us; but unto thy name be all the glory. When they survey the happy throng, and see so many absent who, they thought, would have been present,-when they hear the roll of heaven called over, and observe how many do not answer to their names who, while on earth, made the greatest professions and pretensions,when they observe the dying thief present, and Judas absent, on the great day of review,-when they recollect the great number of magistrates and subjects, of ministers and people, who were applauded and deified by their fellow-men; but who are rejected and condemned by God, they will be lost in admiration, and astonishment, and delight, that their frail bark has gained the desired haven, while so many, seemingly strong and stately vessels, have been completely and eternally wrecked. Everything will excite their wonder and astonishment, their gratitude and love, while they survey all the ways of Jehovah toward them, which have been mercy and truth; and they, with overflowing hearts, and enraptured tongues, will exclaim, Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are all thy ways, O thou King of saints. Who would not fear thee, and glorify thy name; for thou only art holy.
Where will be our place, and what will be our state, my fellow-sinners, when the heavens and the earth shall pass away, and there shall be found no place for them? Whether will we be on the right hand, or the left, when the books shall be opened, and the dead, small and great, shall stand before God; and another book shall be opened which is the book of life; and the dead shall be judged out of those things which are written in the books, according to their works. And the sea shall give up the dead which are in it; and death and hell the dead which are in them; and they shall be judged, every man according to his works? Whether shall we be calling upon the rocks to fall upon us, and the hills to cover us, from the face of Him that sitteth upon the throne, and the wrath of the Lamb? or whether shail we, with joy, be mounting up to meet the Lord in the air? Whether shall we be congratulating ourselves, that all our sorrows are over! or whether shall we be
looking forward to interminable and insupportable anguish ? These are awful and important questions; and now is the time to resolve them. Suppose, just now, we saw the great white throne erected, and Him who is to sit on it coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory, how could we solve them? So, most likely, shall they be answered then. As the tree falls, so it must lie; and, most probably, our present state and condition will decide what it shall be then. If we have never believed formerly, and will not believe instantly, how are we sure we shall hereafter believe? If we have not repented, and do not repent now, when are we determined to repent Recollect the advice of eternal wisdom, Boast not of to-morrow; for thou knowest not what a day shall bring forth. But is it so easy to believe and repent,-to love God and love man, Are not all these the gift of God? You may as soon try to move the globe, as perform any one of them. Christ is exalted, as a Prince and a Saviour, to give repentance and remission of sins unto Israel. And although we must be saved by grace, through faith; yet that is not of ourselves; it is the gift of God. And how shall we love God supremely, or our neighbour as ourselves, until we be born again, and get a new heart and right spirit-until we be made both able and willing? Try any one of them, and you will feel your impotence to be like that of the man lying at Bethesda's pool thirty-and eight years. Try to persevere amidst the bustle and the noise of this world, its gains and its losses, its pleasures and its pains, and you will feel your unwillingness for present acceptance and present obedience, like the heathen governor, when he trembled at the reasoning of a Roman prisoner, and said, Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee. Or, like a heathen king, you will be only almost persuaded to be Christians. The lusts of the flesh, the lusts of the eye, and the pride of life, will be as strong next year as this. And suppose you should spin out a few more days or years of life, the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches, will as readily enter in then as now, and choke the word, and it will become unfruitful. The heart that is attached to this world now, will, like the grave, never say it is enough. Do not think you will be less busy, or less disposed to trifle with everlasting concerns. Now, and now only, is the accepted time; and now is the day of salvation. But suppose you should gain the whole world by industry and economy, can you carry any of it hence? and what will it profit you if you thereby lose your souls? Oh! that we were wise, that we understood this, that we would consider our latter end.