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more numerous than any favours we can show our fellow creatures, but they are all undeserved. Our fellow creatures have claims upon us; and we are bound as we have opportunity to do good, unto all men. But God is under no obligation to us. All his bounty is grace. And, therefore, if he is continually doing us good, and filling our hearts with joy and gladness, surely he expects that the language of our lips, and of our lives should be, “What shall I render unto the Lord, for all his benefits towards me?-He requireth that which is past." And he demands,
III. A review of your past sorrows and distresses. With all your supplies and indulgences, you have had your hours of trouble; and have found this world to be a vale of tears. Can you forget those seasons in which your worldly comforts fled, your refreshing gourds withered, your beloved friends and relations were removed by death?–O never
the wormwood and the gall of such-and such an "affliction--my soul hath it still in remembrance, and is humbled within me. And be not afraid to think of it. “By the sadness of the countenance, the heart is made better”—more serious, and more soft; and this is the soil for wisdom, and truth, and devotion to flourish in. Do not derive your morals from the school of the world. Their maxims are in
perfect opposition to the spirit which is of God. They endeavour to banish from their minds every thing that has a tendency to do them good. Hence, when troubles befall them, the design of which is to bring them to reflection, they do every thing in their power to escape a sense of them, and to prevent the remembrance of them. And thus the kind and salutary purposes of Heaven in
afflicting them are disregarded, and they go on thoughtlessly, till the evil day comes upon them, with all its horrors and surprise.
As our troubles are designed to do us good, not only in experience, but also in review, we should labour after a practical remembrance of them. They have been lost upon us, unless they have made us wiser; more sober-minded, and less disposed to expect a rest below the skies. We should judge of the future by the past, and conclude that life will be, what it has been, a chequered scene; and that no condition, no connexion, will afford us unmixed happiness. Surely after the experience of years of vanity we begin to gird up the loins of our minds, and to declare plainly, that we seek a better country. Surely these disappointments and regrets urge us to say with David, and “Now, Lord, what wait I for? my hope is in thee;" or with Micah, “Therefore will I look unto the Lord, and will wait for the God of my salvation, my God will hear me!” We cannot now plead ignorance: our dreams have been disturbed: we are awake-and it is high time to arise. It is high time that the trifler should become a man, and the man a Christian.
It is an awful thing to come out of trouble: for it always leaves us better or worse than it finds
We should therefore ask with peculiar concern- .66 What benefit have I derived from such a visitation of Divine Providence? The rod spoke -did I hear its message? The physician has been employed-is my distemper even beyond the reach of medicine? I have lost the life of my friend-and have I lost his death too? My relation has entered the joy of his Lord-I have one reason for loving earth less, and do I love it more? one reason for loving heaven more, and do I love it less?"
Past afflictions should also teach us not to be too much dejected or dismayed in prospect of future ones. For how has it been with us? We feared as we entered the cloud, but the cloud was big with mercy, and poured down blessings. What terrified us in imagination, we bore with cheerfulness. When the day of trial came, we had grace to help, in time of need; and it was found sufficient for us. And our God is the same, and has promised that he will never leave us nor forsake us.
And, 0 happy is he who in reviewing his griefs, can say, “Well, so many of my troubles are gone for ever. So many steps of '
my wearisome journey I have taken-and the hour is not far off that shall end the toilsome pilgrimage”
O most delightful hour, by man
Experienc'd here below;
His folly and his wo.
Again life's dreary waste;
With all the gloomy past.
Earth, seas, and sun adieu;
CowPER. But, IV. God requires us to review our past sins. Many of these have grown out of our privileges, our mercies, and our trials. They have been attended with singular aggravations. They are more in number than the hairs of our head. In many things we offend all.
It is well, if upon a review of the year, we can exculpate ourselves from sins committed against man--but what are these, compared with the offences which we have committed against God? Indeed all sin is really committed against God. There is not a duty which we owe our fellow creatures, but he has enjoined the observance of; he has commanded us to love our neighbour as ourselves, and therefore every deviation from this rule is a transgression of his law, and a provocation of his anger. But when we judge ourselves more immediately in relation to him, when we consider what he has righteously required of us, and reflect upon our omissions of duty, and our actual departures from him, in thought, word, and deed, we are compelled to exclaim—who can understand his errors? The review is painfulbut it is useful, it is necessary.
It will lead us to admire the long-suffering of God, in bearing with us, year after year. Though we have proved such cumberers of the ground, he has still spared us. Though we have so often provoked him, he has not destroyed us. We may look upon each other this evening with astonishment, and say, “It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.”
It will be a call to repentance; this always commences in a conviction of sin, and is daily brought into exercise, by fresh discoveries of its remaining existence. They shall come with weeping, and with supplications will I lead them."
It will humble us, and we need every check to pride, for we are prone to think more highly of ourselves, than we ought to think. But what are we? Have we lived a day without being fools, loiterers, undutiful servants, unfaithful stewards? And what reason can we have to be proud?
It will promote charity. We shall be tender towards others, in proportion as we deal honestly, and severely with ourselves. The most effectual way to take us off from beholding the mote in our brother's eye, is to employ ourselves in extracting the beam from our own. We have all our infirmities, though they may not be precisely of the same kind with those which lead us so rigorously to condemn others. We are all win the body, and should consider ourselves, lest we also be tempted.”
It will be a spur to diligence. Do you ask, what are we to use diligence for? This depends, in some respects, upon the condition you are in. Perhaps, to this hour some of you have been anxious about every thing, except the pardon of your sins. While these remain unforgiven, the wrath of God abideth on you, and you are every moment in danger of sinking into the lowest hell. It is obviously, therefore, your duty, immediately and earnestly to seek after an interest in Christ, by whom alone you can be justified freely from all things.
But diligence equally becomes those of you who hope that you are already partakers of this blessing. You can never do enough for him who has saved you by his grace. You have much lost time to redeem: and much lost ground to recover. When you ought to have been running, you have been standing still-perhaps, drawing back. Some who began the divine life long after you, are now far before you on the heavenly road.