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Short Sermons.

No. II

By a Moralising Layman

My Dear Readers:

The text selected for the subject of my observations on this occasion, you will find in Job 5:7.

“Yet man is born unto trouble as the sparks fly upward.”

In my last, I made allusion to the necessity of a reformation in the native defects of our moral nature, in order to afford us any assurance of true religion; and I called upon you most seriously to institute a searching investigation into the true state of your hearts, that you might detect those blemishes which were silently, but surely corrupting you, withdrawing you from all manner of food, and alluring you to an intimacy with every species of evil. It is my sincere hope, that my remarks may have had some effect in awakening in a slight degree your reflection to the importance of the subject. And here, I would take occasion to say, that in commending these remarks to your attention, I do so with the deepest humility, conscious of their imperfections; and resting my claim upon your consideration, solely on the merit, that the labour I perform is in your behalf, and the service that I render is to result to your benefit. Asking then your kind and lenient judgment, let me be heard “for the sake of my cause.” In this number, it is my intention to speak of the afflictions which are common to our existence in this sphere; and to offer you a few thoughts; to which their contemplation has given birth. The theme is one that I hope will prove equally interesting to all; for when we look around us, we can find no exemption from these dispensations of Providence; and it has been an inducement to select it, because it is my wish to avoid any charge of partiality or invidiousness in the choice of my subjects or the tendency of my remarks.

Perhaps, the first thought which strikes our attention in the contemplation of this subject, is the apparent diversity with which it has pleased God to cast the lot of our fellow-beings in this world. There are some who appear to have been born to the enjoyment of every good, whose existence from the cradle to the grave is passed apparently amidst every happiness and pleasure, who having lived ignorant of the pain of an ungratified wish, when at last called from earth to heaven, have to our mortal view appeared as if realizing in the highest degree all the bliss which mortality is experiencing. On the other hand, we have beheld those with whom misfortune has ever seemed a twin-sister, accompanying infancy, youth, adolescence, and old age, until the shroud alone has severed the bond of companionship. They have formed plans, only to see them perish in the execution; they have entertained hopes, only to know them not realized; they have felt desires, only that they might experience the agony of never having met with gratification. Such are two extremes of the condition of mortality; but perhaps the most numerous portion of our race find life interspersed with good and evil, joy and sorrow, and behold their moments flit rapidly away, in alternate rapture or dismay:— regarding too lightly the first, too deeply the last. We are prone also to judge hastily as to the existence of both these feelings; and experience teaches us, that we must search very deeply into the recesses of the heart, if we would seek to know true happiness or unfeigned sorrow. It is not always the possession of riches that constitutes wealth; nor the fulness of health that indicates strength; nor a crowd of acquaintances that evinces esteem; the poor that is content, is richer than the rich that feareth the day of poverty; the feeble that has faith is stronger than the muscular man that disbelieves, and the humble individual owning true merit, has sincerer friends than the wealthy, surrounded by the baseness of cringing sycophancy. Thus, too, the outward presentation of sorrow is not always a certain evidence of grief, and we find that all of us “have that within which passeth show.” We must not, therefore, judge the world, by external appearances, else we should do unto others, as also to our own judgment, great injustice. Improprieties which we now condemn, might have some extenuation offered for them; and perhaps, could we know all, much that we now applaud would call for censure. “Forbear to judge, for we are sinners all.”

Few of us, I have reason to believe, estimate correctly those events which befall us, which we regard as afflictions. Inasmuch as we are exceedingly selfish, and desire that all things on earth should conspire to our comfort and bodily gratification: we are disposed to murmur and question the wisdom and justice of God, when he sees fit to deprive us of any object that has been a delight and blessing. But, my dear readers, we should remember that the decrees of God are no chance results; “there is a special providence in the fall of a sparrow.” The blow that recently deprived that interesting family of a young man, so dearly beloved by all his kindred, was no random shot; and, my afflicted mourning friends, deep as was your anguish, bitter as was your grief, do not forget that it pleased Him that gave, to take away, and that although his departure may have proven a sad blow to you, it was his gain.

“That world of light, with joy is bright,
This, is a world of wo;
Shall we grieve, that his soul hath taken flight,
Because we dwell below?”

Thus, in our estimate of the trials, which it pleases Heaven to impose on our endurance, we should be extremely careful that we commit no errors in our contemplation of them; or ever forget our duty of solemn resignation to his will. It is well, also, that we should occasionally meet with sorrow; for how should we value the sunshine of life, if we never walked in its shade? There is, therefore, no condition of life free from trials and afflictions. The rich, exempt from the evils of pecuniary misfortunes, full often meet with blows more terrible than any which the poor man endures. Think of the agony with which a sensitive heart silently watches the progress of disease fastening upon a beloved brother or sister, witnessing day by day the insidious poison slowly overpowering health and strength, until the hours can be courted when death will claim its victim. Regard that death-bed scene, as round the emaciated form brothers and sisters and mother hang in agony, clinging convulsively to those hands already cold, and striving by their own warm kisses, to breathe warmth into the cold body, which even now, chilled by the presence of icy death, shall never again know heat; and when the last sad tidings are made known, reflect with what desolate hearts they sit down, feeling the emptiness of worldly gifts, and willing to exchange all their wealth to recall that beloved object to life! Though the coffin be brightly polished, and the fine linen shrouds be arrayed with scrupulous neatness, the worm will be the only companion that shall visit it; and that form, whose embrace we envied the winds of heaven, will speedily moulder away in festering corruption, and “turn unto dust as it was.” But the most awful thought connected with the departure of the rich is the language of God, which saith: “That the rich man that sinneth, shall lie down, but he shall not be gathered;” and reflect my friends, if such be the tenure upon which the possession of earthly prosperity depends, if it be not preferable to dwell in the shades of poverty, with virtue for your companion.

But I do not believe that it is the design of God, to inflict agony upon either the rich or the poor; and even when the weight of the dispensations of his providence seem heaviest, there may be a latent good and an ulterior benefit, far exceeding the temporary evil; for “happy is the man that God correcteth,” and “He loveth those whom He chasteneth.” Therefore, we should bow with a submissive heart and a contrite spirit to the decrees which teach us his will, and we shall then find that even affliction thus sanctified “has as sweet a sense as any cordial comfort.”

In the season of distress we are prone to seek for relief from that Source whence it alone can come; and in our searchings we recur to the past events of our existence, to ascertain with what justice we can claim the grace of Heaven in our afflictions. Should we find those pages bright and clear, unsullied by the commissions of iniquities and transgressions, we may hope with confidence, and come what may we will rely with firmness, because we have reason for our faith. If, on the contrary, evil thoughts and impure actions have defiled the brightness of our past life, with a perturbed and distressed soul, we can only look to God, depending on his unbounded mercies. The panacea, then, for these afflictions may be found in a heart properly prepared by love and purity to meet with resignation the will of God. Cleanse your soul and cast away envy, that you may be thus made ready. Greet your neighbour’s prosperity with warmth and gladness, or should adversity befall him, extend your hand in aid and your soul in sympathy. And you will find a perennial fountain of enjoyment in your heart, which, should affliction be your lot, will soften the bitterness of your anguish, and strengthen your hopes of pardon and forgiveness. May I hope, my dear readers, that after what I have written, you will find it profitable to “do that which is right in His sight.” And may all blessings attend you.


Tebeth, 5606.