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PAIN AND AFFLICTION
sensations, it is also liable to pain. Bodily pain, and a certain degree, we may presume, of mental suffering, is often endured, even by the beasts of the field and the birds of the air ; and with respect to man, his capacity of suffering pain is large in proportion to his other powers. He is the child not only of pleasure and joy, but of perplexity, affliction, and tribulation. He is “born unto trouble, as the sparks fly upward!” Job v, 7.
This subject, like that of the existence of moral evil, is not without its mysteriousness; but that between the pains suffered under particular circumstances by the creatures, and the benevolence of the Creator, there is no real inconsistency, a scriptural view of the case will presently convince us. With respect, in the first place, to the inferior animals, the sacred writers occasionally advert to their frail and perishing nature, Ps. xlix, 12; but they are far more frequently occupied in contemplating their strength, their beauty, and their happiness : Job xxxix-xli; Ps. civ. On this branch of the subject, then, it may suffice to observe, that the sensitiveness of these animals is productive of so vast a quantity of pleasure, and of so little pain in the comparison, as to afford an almost unmixed evidence of the benevolence of their Maker ; and, unquestionably, the pain which such perishing creatures sometimes endure, although calculated to excite compassion in the feeling mind, is permitted for some wise and gracious, though unknown, purpose.
With respect to the more intelligent creatures of God, all the suffering which they endure may reasonably be regarded, as I have found occasion to remark in a former essay, as the direct or indirect conse
PERMITTED OR ORDAINED,
quences of sin. That such more especially is the fact, as it relates to death, that most powerful afflicter of humanity, we may learn from the apostle Paul; for it is generally allowed, that he spoke of natural as well as spiritual death, when he said, “ By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned :" Rom. v, 12. Now, it is a singular proof of the goodness, as well as the wisdom of God, that the pains and afflictions of mortals, the direct or indirect consequences of sin, are so overruled for good, that they are often the means of curing that very evil out of which they originate. We learn from the Scriptures, that they are directed by an all-wise and beneficent Deity, to the great and good purpose of moral probation and discipline—that they are powerful instruments in his holy hands, for the reformation and restoration of his wandering children. Afiction, in its varied forms, is calculated above almost every other means, to humble the pride, and to soften the hardness, of the heart of man. It is affliction by which our faith is tried, and in the end confirmed. It is affliction which calls into exercise our patience, our forbearance, our submission, and our fortitude. “Before I was afflicted,” exclaimed David, “I went astray; but now have I kept thy word :" Ps. cxix, 67. son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him ; for whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?...... Furthermore, we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence; shall we not much
rather be in subjection to the Father of Spirits, and live; for they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure, but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness? Now, no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous but grievous ; nevertheless, afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness, unto them which are exercised thereby:” Prov. iii, 11; Heb. xii, 5–11.
The righteous, who are the especial objects of the divine benevolence, are taught of their Heavenly Father, that it is “ through much tribulation" they “ enter the kingdom;" but theirs is the privilege of receiving, on every trying occasion, strength and consolation proportioned to their day. “But now, saith the Lord that created thee, () Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not, for I have redeemed thee. I have called thee by thy name: thou art mine. When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee. When thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned, neither shall the flame kindle upon thee; for I am the Lord thy God – the Holy One of Israel-thy Saviour:" Isa. xliii, 1–3. The purpose and effect of their sufferings, also, are plainly set before them, for their help and encouragement. . “ The trial” of “their faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire,” is found“ unto praise, and honour, and glory, at the appearing of Jesus Christ:" 1 Pet. i, 7. “For which cause we faint not, but, though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day; for our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh out for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;" II Cor. iv, 16, 17.
HARMONY OF THE DIVINE ATTRIBUTES.
Too many indeed there are, among men, to whom the moral discipline of pain and sorrow, as well as every other adıninistration of divine wisdom, is applied in vain—who unmoved alike by kindness and by chastisement, continue in their state of sinfulnesshard, stubborn, and impenitent. If the sufferings of such persons are unmitigated—if they find no valid consolation under them—it is not because there is any inadequacy in the goodness of God, but because they are separated from that goodness, by their sins. And if they continue to despise the long-suffering, and to reject the proferred grace of a perfectly ber volent Deity, till the time of their visitation, the period of their probation, shall have passed away for ever, and thus expose themselves to the outpouring of his wrath in the world of future retribution, the goodness of God is still unimpeachable—their blood is upon their own heads. In the moral attributes of the Deity, there is to be observed the harmony of a perfect adjustment. Every one of those attributes occupies its own province, and fulfils its own end; and while they operate in different directions, there exists among them a perfect congruity. God is benevolent : he is also holy; and his benevolence is incapable of being ever so exerted as to interrupt or annul his holiness. It can never be applied in such a manner as to confound the distinction between right and wrong, to destroy the standard of virtue, or to subvert that unalterable principle—that the wages of unrepented sin is DEATH.
V. Let it be remembered, however, that the holiness and benevolence of God meet in his attribute of mercy.
When the Lord condescended to display his glory to Moses, he descended in the cloud, and
THE MERCY OF GOD.
proclaimed the name of the Lord: “The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity, and transgression, and sin:" Exod. xxxiv, 6,7. Of all the attributes of the Deity, indeed, there is none more largely unfolded in Scripture than his mercy—his gracious, and unfailing disposition to pardon the iniquities of his children, on their forsaking their sins, on their turning back again to the God of their salvation, on their offering to him the acceptable sacrifice of a contrite heart. “If thou, Lord, shouldst mark iniquity,” said David, “O Lord, who shall stand ? But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared. Let Israel hope in the Lord; for with the Lord there is mercy, and with him is plenteous redemption :” Ps. cxxx, 4. 7. “It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not:” Lam. iii, 22. pleasure at all that the wicked should die ? saith the Lord God, and not that he should return from his ways and live?” Ezek. xviii, 23. 6 Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts ; and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon :” Is. lv, 7.
Nothing can be conceived more tender and exquisite than the compassions of Jehovah. He follows his unworthy children in all their wanderings ; he visits and revisits them with his Holy Spirit ; he suffers their rebellion long; he pleads with them as a father; he says, “ How shall I give thee up, Ephraim ? How shall I deliver thee, Israel ? How shall I make thee as Admah? How shall I set thee as Zeboim? Mine
6 Have I any