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Sweet is the returning light of day to the traveller who has lost himself in a thick forest during the night! Still more sweet to the soul is the refreshing ray of divine truth that dispels the mists of doubt and ignorance! How cheering to find ourselves in a place of safety, when we had long apprehended that we were on the point of perishing !

There is probably no Christian who has not, in a greater or less degree, had fears and doubts similar to those of the psalmist,-especially under the pressure of heavy affliction, though the soul may acknowledge that God is just, yet how hard is it to believe that God is good. It was an evidence of strong faith when David could declare, as in the 119th Psalm, “ I know, O Lord, that thy judgments are right, and that thou in faithfulness hast afflicted me.” It seems to have been the fruit of deep experience, after having discovered, in the improvement of his heart, the happy effects of sanctified afflictions. Thrice blessed soul that can make the declaration in sincerity, while yet smarting under the wound of a recent loss.

Too generally, when a beloved object is withdrawn from our fond embrace, in the first anguish of grief we feel as though all were lost. It is as if our whole soul and life had been bound up in this one friend. We forget that we have others left that take an interest in our welfare. Above all, we are too ready to forget that God remains the same. Nature, while we are under the influence of excessive anguish, seems to present us with a blank,--a dark and dreary blank,-in which we can no longer discover the signs of Divine goodness. The soul resembles the mariner tossed in a frail bark on the wild waves of the trackless ocean in a dark and tempestuous night. Suddenly, the thunder rolls, the lightning descends—our faculties are stunned with the furious violence of the storm. When we begin to recover from our stupor, seeing nothing but destruction before us, we are disposed to murmur against the Divine government. Happy for us that we have a compassionate High-priest,--one who has himself weathered the fiercest storms of life's tempestuous ocean,—who is not untouched with the feeling of our infirmities; one who intercedes for us while, in the violence of our grief, we fret against the Lord, and foolishly distrust his goodness; who prays in behalf of his tempted creatures, " Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Well for us that we have a gracious God, who pitieth those that fear him, as a father pitieth his children,—who bears with our waywardness, our unbelief, and rebellion ! Hence, while Satan desires to sift us as wheat, the intercession of our Divine Redeemer prevails, that our faith shall not utterly fail, though put to a severe trial.

Though the heart, by the violence of the tempest, may for a time be thrown out of its course, yet when the storm is hushed, and a favourable gale springs up, it again summons courage, and resumes its foriner direction. Though terrified by the noise and fury of the elements, the soul, as a frightened deer, may run in every direction, yet when it has had time to recover itself, it will fly--I had almost said instinctively--to its covert in the rock. When every other spring of joy is dried up, then it learns to value the never-failing source of comfort that religion yields. Then it can exclaim, with a vivacity and a feeling before unknown, as it rests upon the Almighty alone for support, “ Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire besides thee."

While the melancholy spectacle serves strongly to remind us that nothing on earth can yield substantial bliss, the words of the psalmist contain a convincing proof that religion offers us support under every calamity. On both these truths we propose to offer some remarks, and then to add a few reflections on the use and intention of afflictions.

Nothing, we said, that earth affords can yield substantial bliss. On this topic it is easy to moralize. It forms the burden of the youthful writer's first essay, of the poet's song, and the philosopher's dream. But on this subject, so readily granted and so seldom realized, Death reads us a lesson that comes right home to our bosoms. What now is become of the plans of future enjoyment, or honour, or wealth, which man had fondly formed? Where now is the friend on whom the affec. tionate heart had rested? Where is he who had long been the hope and pride of his family,--from whom his fond parents had expected to receive the last offices of filial affection ?

The sudden removal in the prime of life of one of our friends, the lamentations of his relatives, forcibly bring to our thoughts that the joys of earth, even the most innocent and most endearing, are imperfect, unsatisfying, and transitory. They are imperfect;they are never entirely unmingled with painful circumstances. Thus with friendship: either we are disappointed in the character of him in whom we placed full confidence, or if we find him to be indeed all that our heart could wish, we are called to see him suffer pain without the power to afford him any relief; or we are separated from him with short and distant intervals of reunion. But the pleasures of earth are not only imperfect; they are further unsatisfying. To confine ourselves to those of friendship, which are certainly among the purest : yet a friend, though he should be all that we can reasonably expect, is but a frail being like ourselves, and unable, therefore, to support the soul under all the calamities of life, or to fill up by his kind attentions the aching void of the human breast. By sharing, he may double our joys, and by dividing, may diminish our sorrows; he


in certain cases be the very idol of our affections, and yet we feel that something more is wanting to render us happy. Let our intimacy be ever so great, and our confidence unbounded, still, in the deep recesses of the soul, will be found a rankling care that we dare not reveal. But what stamps with vanity all the joys of time is, that they are transitory. Let our happiness, when founded on any earthly object, be as complete as we could desire, - let that object be supposed capable of filling the whole capacity of the soul-still the day must speedily arrive in the rapid whirl of things, when the possession the most valued of all must be surrendered. And by that wonderful counterpoise of pleasure and pain which the Creator has ordained in all human events, by which all ranks are brought much nearer to a level than we sometimes imagine, the greater that our enjoyment has been, the more severe is our loss. The more our affections had entwined themselves around a beloved friend, the more violent the separation, leaving the heart bleeding at every pore.

But to make ample amends to man for the vanity of all sublunary joys, religion offers to his embrace a happiness complete, satisfactory, and enduring. Thus did the psalmist find it. In our text we are not presented with a moral axiom, cold and repulsive; not with a calm reflection upon the propriety of things, such as a man would make when he feels at his ease; nothing of all this: but it is the passionate cry of a soul deeply wounded—which, having looked around in vain to every other source of comfort, flies, as its last refuge, into the arms of Divine love, and there finds all its sorrows, all its losses, all its cares, swallowed up in rapturous hope of endless bliss. “ Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire besides thee." In the admiring view of infinite perfection and boundless mercy, all its wishes and desires are annihilated, save this one :-0, my God! permit me to call thee Father ; let me constantly enjoy thy favour, and I care not what thou deprivest me of. Thou art the fountain of bliss; and while I may go with confidence to thee, to draw water from the wells of consolation, what care I though the rills be dried ? Thy love is an unmeasurable ocean, from which I may to eternity quench the thirst after happiness, without any apprehension of exhausting the supply!

Such an exclamation, uttered in the midst of painful circumstances, such complete reliance on the goodness and sufficiency of God, -more deeply affects us than a of hope

long train of arguments addressed to the understanding. It speaks at once to the heart. It causes a ray to spring up in the bosom of wo, that it may yet find the same consolation.

And why not? We are too apt to suppose that the experience of the saints, recorded in the Scriptures, and more particularly in the Psalms, has in it something peculiar, with which we have no concern. Far from it. They were men of like passions, subject to the same infirmities and temptations as we are. In one respect we are more highly favoured, as we enjoy a clearer revelation of the Divine will, a greater manifestation of the mercy of God, than any they were acquainted with. What hinders us, then, from enjoying the same consolations—from attaining the same eminent piety? It is the weakness of our faith, my friends. It is our distrust of the Divine goodness; our attachment to the world. This leads to observe upon the use and intention of afflictions. These are some of the most efficient means employed by Divine mercy for reclaiming erring mortals. They are intended to wean our hearts from the world, by convincing us feelingly of its vanity, that we may fly for refuge to the Deity. O, thou distressed soul! 'violently torn from the object of thy affections, to whom the world appears a waste-now, now is the time to cast thyself into the open arms of thy Redeemer and thy God! That opportunity which thou wouldst never have found, he has of his own accord presented to thee. Think not thou hast no right to come. He invites all that are weary and heavy laden, with the promise of giving them rest. Or if you have already tasted that the Lord is gracious, this affliction is to try your faith ; if sound, it will abide the test, and come forth purified as gold that is tried by the fire.

Afflictions, when meekly submitted to, are a blessed means of drawing the soul closer to God. They enable us to look forward to the hour of death with greater composure, and afford a happy opportunity to prepare for that solemn event.

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