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formity to the precepts which he has written for our observance, and thus filled up the measure of a holy life, we may “die the death of the righteous, and our last end be like his.”
ON PATIENCE UNDER AFFLICTION.
HEBREWS, CHAP. XII. VERSES 7 AND 8.
But if ye
If ye endure chastening God dealeth with you as with sons: for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards and not sons.
In the writings of the Apostles, and those of St. Paul in particular, though there is certainly little to cheer the hardened and persisting sinner, there is nevertheless every where much consolation to be derived to the righteous and the penitent. Under the most gloomy evils of life, ample inducement is given to bear them patiently; and a sufficient reason is urged in the text why we ought to submit to them with contentedness and resignation. With all the lofty motives, however, which the Christian religion proposes for acquiescing resignedly in the temporal judgments of God, we are but too apt to repine at the visitations of Providence when they appear to press grievously upon us, and to think our condition a hard one because we may be exposed to more, or greater sufferings, than many whose virtues we shall imagine to be fewer, and their piety therefore less. We can certainly have no reasonable excuse for murmuring at whatever afflictions it shall be our lot to endure ; living, as we do, amid the mercies of a dispensation which teaches us that sufferings, patiently and meekly borne under the influence of an earnest faith in Christ, will distinguish us in our Christian course; ensuring us the approbation of him who suffered for our salvation and example. Our excuse, too, is the less, when we consider that in the dark ages of pagan superstition, when the light of revelation had shone with a very faint and partial radiance, the crude speculations of philosophy alone gave birth to the hardy Stoic, who denied even suffering to be an evil, and bore with patient submission whatever calamities the contingencies of life might bring upon him. For surely if, when guided simply by the wisdom of men, there were many who could bring themselves under such strict discipline of endurance as to look contentedly, and even with cheerfulness, on the approaches of affliction, we who direct our views by the light of divine wisdom, have a far higher inducement to bear with meekness the just judgments of heaven, being taught, by inspired authority, that He,
upon whose determinations our future happiness must depend,“ chasteneth whom he loveth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.”
To show more distinctly the scope of the Apostle's reasoning in the text, we will consider first, that “if we endure chastening, God dealeth with us as with sons.” And secondly, that if we be “without chastisement, then are we bastards and not sons."
With respect to the first part of our subject, the Apostle has given us every encouragement we can hope for, to support, without repining, the evils inseparable from our human condition. By placing the dispensations of providence before us in a just light, he banishes that despondency, which the disorders and miseries, prevalent in the world, are apt to occasion. “ From him we learn that we are here, as it were, in a state of education, under the tuition of God, who performs to us the offices of a prudent and affectionate father. By the various afflictions of life he teaches us the virtues necessary to fit us for discharging its duties, and for enjoying the pleasures of heaven."* Our best and safest knowledge comes to us not by intuition, but gradually fixes itself within us by the operations of a progressive and persuading experience. And perhaps afflictions go further
than we are generally willing to imagine, in preparing us for that fruition in eternity which our blessed Redeemer has, by his sacrifice for man, put us in a condition to secure. For St. Paul, and he had his full share of them, tells us that he "gloried in tribulations, knowing that tribulation worketh patience, and patience experience, and experience hope ;" and these are habits of the mind, and qualities of the soul which are mainly instrumental in forwarding the great work of our salvation ; since, without patience we cannot be obedient, without experience we cannot act justly, and without hope we can have no sufficient motives to virtue. If, therefore, tribulations induce these necessary Christian qualities, the mercy of God is surely rather manifested than his severity displayed in inflicting them. Besides, they are trials not only consistent with, but absolutely inseparable from, a life of probation ; and for this reason it is, “ that no man should be moved by these afflictions;
for ye yourselves know that we are appointed thereunto.” They are the corrections of a wise and affectionate father, who punishes the little miscarriages of his child in order to secure him from greater, and to raise his admiration of virtue by making him feel the evil consequences of vice. Thus it is that “this affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.”