Page images
PDF
EPUB

the world. He finds, in his condition, something more pleasing than his country and friends, and indeed, than in all earthly gratifications. Perhaps also, God is pleased to bless his designs, and to grant him that rest which he sought; but if it be otherwise, he is not cast down at the disappointment, for the greater his sacrifices are, the greater is his satisfaction; thus, in the approbation and joy of his conscience, the believer finds a happy indemnification for all he can either do, or suffer; and that the promise of Jesus Christ is fulfilled, which assures us, that all those who have left their fathers, or mothers, or wives, or children, or house, or lands, shall receive an hundred fold, even in this life: if we add, that in the world to come, they shall obtain life cverlasting; and that after having been consoled with this hope, they shall infallibly possess it: this surely, is another ground to acknowledge that the providence of God which brought them under such trials, ought to be considered as a very kind and favorable dispensation: for they are only called to renounce a transient good, the enjoyment of which is never pure, nor exempt from vexations; and, in exchange, God not only gives them more agreeable things in this world, but in the future state, pleasures that are perfect and everlasting: thus it appears, their sufferings are short, and their recompence unbounded; God not intending to proportion his beneficence to the actions of men, but to his own greatnes.

• View the subject, therefore, on every side, and observe, that where God acts in reference to his children, he always acts for their good. Even when he removes those persons that contribute to, their edification, he makes their removal condu.. cive to that end; when he opens a free course to, truth; when he makes the report of the gospelloud and distinct, he calls men from darkness into light; he draws them from ignorance and immorality, and by knowledge and holiness, brings them into his peculiar kingdom. When pastors are condemned to silence, when places of worship are shut up, and the flocks are scattered, the dispen sation, indeed, is contrary, but the design is still the same. God has less for his end the punishment of the obdurate, than their conversion; therefore his last call is, usually, more pressing and

strong. They have despised his kindness and ina • vitations; they have disrelished his manna, because

it was too common; therefore he makes them know, by these affecting revolutions, that he is as terrible in his anger, as he is alluring in his compassion; and, to excite their appetite, he makes them feel the rigors of famine. We never so fully know the value of any good, as when we are most likely to lose it. Nothing more effectually awakes our zeal, than when God is pleased to withdraw those favors which we have despised. In these afflicting seasons, by the same chastisement, God accomplishes all his designs. Foolish virgins are alarmed and trim their lamps; true believers are roused from their sloth and negligence; each of them awake

A a

and

and cry to God. Do not think the believer can sleep quietly in the indulgence of evil habits; do not suppose he can live in the allowed neglect of reading the word of God and of prayer; no, he will enter into himself: he will work out his own salvation, with a care incomparably greater than before, and he will not rest till he is satisfied that, though he is deprived of external means, he is not destitute of the grace of God.

Thus, the wisdom of God makes use of various events to save men; and this management of providence, is of great use to give efficacy to every other means that God employs. It is not in vain that the doctrine of the gospel is preached; it is a suitable way to bring men to God: there they are taught what they are in themselves, what is their duty towards him, and what blessings he has promised; there are the instructions of truth, and the precepts of righteousness; there the true motives of obedience are represented, and there the commandments, promises, threatenings, and invitations, are made use of to affect them and convert them. If a man was free, and capable of a serious and tranquil application of these things, they would make a deep impression on his mind; but this is not his condition. He is filled and possessed with the love of sensible objects; he is continually occupied, either with business, or pleasure, so that his mind is distracted by the tumult of his passions. Hence it happens, that the word of God is preached to him in vain. It sounds in his

ears,

ears, but it does not reach his heart; or if it does, it onty glances on it, and the faint impressions are soon effaced; because his usual thoughts and passions instantly return and repossess their former place.

For this reason, God makes use of various means and events to surmount these impediments, to produce due attention to his word, and by such attention, to make them obedient to his will. To this purpose his benefits are sometimes profitable, especially on generous and grateful minds, and to those who are already touched with some sense of religion; nothing carries them with more force to their duty than the favors which he is pleased to impart. But God has also the same thing chiefly in view, by afflictions. In vain the man immerses himself in the love of the world and its advantages. When he falls into great misfortunes' he is constrained, in spite of himself, to acknowledge, that this also is vanity. Once he adored those things; now he despises them. Neither riches, credit, friends, nor any other earthly good, afford him the least relief. When he is weakened by violent pains, these goods cannot dissipate his fears of approaching death, nor calm the anguish of his agitated mind. Now represent to him the , ; vanity of this world, and he will hear you; he will easily be persuaded of the fact, for he feels its force, and under its burden he laments. Set be- . fore him the promises of God, and the excellence of his grace; intreat him to consider, how many

A a 2 : , solid

solid 'advantages are connected with these promises which console us in misfortunes and in death, and make us happy in the prospect of the future state: you find him disposed to desire such felicity, and to request of God, that by his grace, he may be a partaker thereof. It is thus, that afflictions are of great use to bring men back to God. It is thus, that the grace of God which makes use of every thing for the salvation of believers, blends its efficacy with their sufferings to sanctify and save them, as the matter may require. This David remarked with respect to himself. He said, Before I was afflicted, I went astray; but now I have kept thy word: and, St. Paul says, in general, that chastening yieldeth the peaceable fruits of righteousness to them that are exercised thereby. .

· Let us suppose then, what indeed cannot be denied, that though grace may be distinguished from the means of grace, yet it is never separated from them. To consider its common course, it seems agreeable that God should employ every mean in respect of his own children, that is proper to produce in them those effects which he has proposed to call forth; and since afflictions may be useful, it is fit he should chastise them. On the one side, the corrupt nature of man has need of this mode of instruction, and on the other, that order which mercy regards, may teach us to expect it. God afflicts man, because it is necessary he should be afflicted. He does not choose for him

that

« PreviousContinue »