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disregard the successive messages of the wordGo," says God to some fiery trial-"go and consume such an enjoyment-and he will soon be upon his knees, saying, Do not condemn me; show me wherefore thou contendest with me. Why am I thus? Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?"

But here we particularly see, that afflictions are intended to be spiritual preventions--They are to keep man from his purpose. The people of God are not always aware of this at first, and therefore, when they meet with these obstructions, they sometimes fret, and think they do well to be angry even unto death: they think he is their enemy, while he is proving himself to be their friend; and that he is opposing their progress when he is only hindering their wanderings. Disappointments in favourite wishes are trying, and we are not always wise enough to recollect-that disappointments in time, are often the means of preventing disappointments in eternity. Our murmurings and repinings arise from our ignorance-we see not the precipice and the pit, on the other side of the hedge, or of the wall.

I wish you, therefore, above all things, to remember that it is a most singular mercy for God to render the pursuit of sin difficult. If we are going astray-is it not better to have the road filled with thorns, than strewed with flowers? Is it not better to have it rough and uninviting, than smooth and alluring? If there are certain things in us, the destruction of which, is equally necessary and difficult is it a blessing to have them fed, or to have them starved?-There are some who are now rejoicing because their plans suc

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ceed, and every thing favours their wishes, who, if they knew all, would see awful reason to weep and mourn. And there are others, who if they knew all, would no longer be sorrowful, because they cannot advance; but are checked in every path they tread. They would see that they are chastened of the Lord, that they may not be condemned with the world. They would see that the loss of creatures is to lead them to ask more

earnestly for God their Maker; who giveth songs in the night. They would see that the sickness of the body is designed to be the cure of the soul. They would see that earth is imbittered, that heaven might be endeared.

Such a discovery of the design and consequences of these exercises would change the whole face of the dispensation, and lead them not only to submit, but to give thanks.


But how awful is it when afflictions are useless; and when even medicine is administered in vain! And there are those, who, like Ahab in distress, sin more and more against God. When he arms himself to withstand them in their mad career, they "rush upon the thick bosses of his buckler.' If they cannot pierce the hedge or the wall by which he opposes them, they will lie down in sullen obstinacy, and sin as they can, (to use the words of the prophet,) rather than yield. "Thou hast stricken them, but they have not grieved; thou hast consumed them, but they have refused to receive correction: they have made their faces harder than a rock-they have refused to return."

But this shall not be the case with the people of God. The grace which employs the means, will render them effectual. They shall not only

feel-but reflect and resolve." Then shall she say, I will go and return to my first husband; for then was it better with me than now."

Whence, IV., observe the difference there is between our adhering to God, and our forsaking him. Behold the declining Christian, seduced by the world. When he was beginning to deviate, many a Samuel cried, "Turn ye not aside: for then shall ye go after vain things, which cannot profit nor deliver; for they are vain."-But he disregarded the friendly counsel. Others had been drawn into this unhappy course; and they had all told him the confusion and regret with which it had been attended.-But he would also try for himself--and says God, Let him try"that he may know my service, and the service of the kingdoms of the countries."


By and by he heard a voice, saying, "O that they had hearkened to my commandments! Then had their peace been as a river, and their righteousness as the waves of the sea!-Have I been a wilderness unto Israel? A land of darkness? Wherefore say my people, We are lords; we will come no more unto thee!"

And now he bethinks himself, and begins to compare the present with the past: "How different the scorching sands, the briers and serpents of this desert from the green pastures in which I once fed and the still waters by which I once refreshed my weary soul! O that it were with me as in months past!"

"Once I walked with God. I could behold his face with confidence. The glory of the Lord was risen upon me, and I walked all the day long in the light of his countenance. Then it was better with me than now.

"Once I had free access to the throne of grace, I approached it with humble and holy boldness; and there are many places that can witness to the tears of joy and sorrow, with which I poured out my soul before God. But now the recollection fills me with dismay. I have now little heart to pray. Conscience, indeed, drags me along to the duty, but I enter the presence of my God with a slavish fear; or a chilling indifference. Then it was better with me than now.

"Once I had sweet communion with the Saviour of sinners. When oppressed with a sense of guilt, I saw the all-sufficiency of his sacrifice, and the perfection of his righteousness; and, by believing, I entered into rest. Under every accusation, he was near that justified me. In every duty and in every trial, he encouraged me, by saying, My grace is sufficient for thee. I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. Now I only see my sins, and my enemies; but, where is the Saviour, and the Helper? Then it was better with me than now!

"Once I experienced the gracious influences of the Holy Spirit. By these I was enlivened, refreshed, and enlightened. I saw clearly the path of duty. I could harmonize providences and promises; I claimed the privilege of a child, and an heir of God. But now, the Comforter, who should relieve my soul, is far from me. I have grieved the Holy Spirit of God, by which I was sealed unto the day of redemption. Then it was better with me than now.


"O what enlargements of soul had I in his ordinances! How often did I find the sanctuary to be no less than the house of God, and the gate of heaven! How sweet was his word to my taste,

yea, sweeter than honey to my lips! What a feast did I enjoy at his table! His flesh was meat indeed, and his blood was drink indeed! Then it was better with me than now.

"And O, with what cheerfulness I carried my cross! I could even glory in tribulations also; for, as the sufferings abounded, the consolations did much more abound. The storm without raged in vain; for all was peace within; but now conscience gnaws me like a worm; and the promises, which should be my support, are neither within reach, or sight. Then it was better with me than now.

"There was a time, that I could see him not only in ordinances, but also in providences; not only in his word, but also in his works. I could enjoy him in my creature-comforts. I relished his love in my daily food. I saw his goodness in my wife, my children, my servants; but now I know not whether any thing I possess is sent in wrath or mercy; I can find him in nothing. Behold, I go forward, but he is not there: backward, but I cannot perceive him; on the left hand, where he doth work, but I cannot behold him, he hideth himself on the right hand, that I cannot see him.

"I cannot fully describe my case. All I know is, (and this I feel by an experience too bitter to be conceived,) that it is not with me as it-once


Some of these feelings, in a lower degree, are common to an apostate professor, who has left off to be wise and to do good. But the experience of such a man differs exceedingly from the feelings of a backsliding believer; for, the judgment of the believer was never drawn over from the

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