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world and the things of the world, and to take him for their supreme portion. It was in the wilderness that he formed the most pious and holy generation of Israel, who took possession of the land of promise. It is usually the case, in times of general security and stupidity, that he converts individuals by means of his chastenings. He first afflicts, and then teaches them out of his law. He makes them feel the necessity of reading, hearing, understanding and embracing the gospel, and then opens their hearts to embrace it. He causes them to know the rod, and who has appointed it; and the happy fruit is the taking away of their sins. Thus he often afflicts men for the purpose of giving them saving instruction. And when this is his purpose of afflicting, he never fails to accomplish his gracious design.

It now remains to show,

III. The happiness of those whom God effectually teaches the knowledge of his word, by means of the afflictive dispensations of his providence. Every such person is pronounced happy in the text: "Blessed is the man whom thou chastenest, O Lord, and teachest him out of thy law." No afflictions in themselves are joyous, but grievous; yet, under divine teachings, they become the occasion of great and lasting happiness. For,

1. The knowledge men are taught through this medium, affords them real comfort and consolation, though their afflictions continue. As soon as they become acquainted with God, as he is revealed in his word, and feel reconciled to his character and government, they rejoice that he reigns, and that they and all his creatures are under his wise and holy disposal. They feel a joyful confidence in the rectitude, wisdom and goodness of all his dispensations. They choose that his will should be done rather than their own; and that his glory should be promoted, rather than their own personal good should be regarded. With such views and feelings Job said, "Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him." David said from his own experience, "Great peace have they that love thy law, and nothing shall offend them." And the primitive christians said, "As dying, but behold, we live; as chastened, and not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things." Those whom God teaches out of his law find abundant consolation in the gospel, where he has promised never to leave nor forsake them, to hear their prayers, to grant them divine support, and to make all things work together for their good. So that, though afflictions abide them, yet they can rejoice in the Lord, and joy in the God of their salvation.

2. They are happy when their peculiar troubles and trials are removed. Divine instruction in adversity teaches them how to feel and act in prosperity. The prophet says, "It is good for a man to bear the yoke in his youth." The reason is, adversity, under a divine influence, teaches men how to view and how to use this world as not abusing it; and makes them live a holy, submissive and grateful life. The lessons taught men in adversity prepare them to enjoy every temporal and spiritual favor, as an expression of the goodness and mercy of God. When God has taught men to see him in adversity, they will see him in prosperity. When he has taught them to see and love his justice, they will of course see and love his kindness and beneficence. Those who have suffered the most evil with patience and submission, are prepared to enjoy the most good, even in this present life. There is nothing like afflictions that are sanctified to prepare men to enjoy as well as serve God, while they are passing through the scenes of this trying, probationary state. Nor is this all; for,

3. They shall be happy for ever. When God has used and blessed the means of chastening with any, they are prepared for future as well as present happiness. Having afflicted them for their present good, he will put them in possession of future and eternal good. The Bible abundantly teaches that the benefits of sanctified afflictions continue not only through this world, but the world to come. This the primitive christians confidently expected. "For I reckon," says the apostle, "that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us." "For which cause," says he again, "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 for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory." And the apostle John represents those who had suffered the most in this world, as enjoying the greatest blessings in heaven. "And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they? And he said to me, these are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple," and "the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of water, and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes." Thus it appears that blessed are those in adversity and prosperity, in life and in death, and to all eternity, whom God chastens and teaches out of his law.

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IMPROVEMENT.

1. If God sometimes chastens men in order to teach them out of his word, because milder means will not produce that desirable effect, then we must conclude that they are very unwilling to receive divine instruction. If mankind were naturally desirous of being taught of God, they would need no powerful and painful means to persuade and incline them to read, and hear, and understand, and receive the plain and important instructions, which he has graciously given them in his word. Good men, as new-born babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that they may grow thereby. David declares, “One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after, that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple." "How amiable are thy tabernacles, O Lord of hosts! My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth, for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God." And Paul said, "I delight in the law of God after the inward man.” But all men have naturally a carnal mind, which is enmity against God, not subject to his law, neither indeed can be. Though they love to be taught out of other books, yet they hate to be taught out of the word of God. They love human, but hate divine instruction. They take peculiar pains, and employ peculiar means to avoid it. David says, "the wicked are estranged from the womb; they are like the deaf adder that stoppeth her ear, which will not hearken to the voice of charmers, charming never so wisely." God complains of his ancient people, that when he gave them his commands, "they obeyed not, neither inclined their ear, but made their necks stiff, that they might not hear, nor receive instruction." Again he says, "I spake unto thee in thy prosperity: but thou saidst, I will not hear; this hath been thy manner from thy youth." There is nothing to which men are more naturally and strongly opposed, than to divine instruction. They will resist all milder means which God uses to lead them to the knowledge of his word and of their own hearts, and, if possible, they will refuse to receive instruction from the most afflictive and painful dispensations of his providence. And they often do completely resist the powerful and painful instructions of his rod, so that God seems discouraged in using it. "Why," says he, "should ye be stricken. any more? ye will revolt more and more." If God had never tried the severe method of instructing men by afflictions, and even by the heaviest afflictions, we could not have known that they were so stout-hearted, and so strenuously opposed to the knowledge of his word and of their own hearts.

2. If it be owing to divine instruction, that divine chastenings do men good, then we may conclude that divine chastenings alone will do them no good. The natural tendency of divine chastenings is, to stir up whatever moral corruption lies in the heart; and they will produce no other effect, unless God himself teaches them to profit. No afflictions, whether light or heavy, will subdue the natural heart, of themselves, but harden it more and more. This has been most clearly manifested by unsanctified afflictions from age to age. Though God's judgments have been abroad in the earth, yet the inhabitants of the world have not generally learned righteousness and obedience, by the things that they have suffered. Divine chastisements were lost upon Pharaoh and his kingdom. Severe trials and troubles and afflictions were lost upon the Israelites whose carcasses fell in the wilderness. The dreadful calamities which fell upon the Jews, both before and after the destruction of Jerusalem, instead of instructing and reforming them, only served to ripen them for an aggravated ruin. Though men are born to trouble as the sparks fly upward, and none can escape from lighter or heavier afflictions, yet very few derive any saving benefit from their fiery trials. The reason is, God does not generally intend to sanctify the afflictions which he sends. upon nations or individuals; and, whenever he does not sanctify them, they invariably become means of blinding their minds, hardening their hearts, and increasing their native opposition to all means of divine and saving knowledge. Afflic tions always become a savor of life unto life, or a savor of death unto death, just as God sees fit to operate upon the hearts of the afflicted. The day of adversity is a day of trial. When God throws men into the furnace of affliction, he will either bring them out purified and refined, or reduce them to dross, which is good for nothing but to be thrown away. They are in a perilous situation, and have reason to tremble for what may be the issue of God's dealings towards them.

3. If God improves the time of affliction as a favorable opportunity of instructing men out of his word in the knowledge of divine things, then the friends of God ought to improve the same favorable season for giving religious instruction to the afflicted. Those who have disregarded religious instruction in days of prosperity, will sometimes readily regard it in days of sorrow and affliction. In such seasons, pious parents have peculiar encouragement to pour instruction into the minds of their ignorant, thoughtless, prayerless children. Pious children have great encouragement to converse freely, affectionately, and solemnly, with their afflicted brothers and sisters. Pious friends have peculiar encouragement to enlighten, coun

sel, or comfort their afflicted connections or acquaintance. And ministers of the gospel have a peculiar opportunity, which they ought wisely and faithfully to improve, to teach their afflicted people the great and precious truths contained in the word of God, which in days of prosperity they had no disposition to hear and regard. Sometimes a few words, and sometimes one word, fitly and seasonably spoken, will produce a great, a lasting, and saving effect upon the wounded and tender heart of the afflicted. It is certainly working together with God, to improve seasons of affliction to instruct the afflicted, who always need, and not unfrequently desire pious instruction. It is the duty of every one, "in the day of prosperity to be joyful, but in the day of adversity to consider." No afflicted person will deny this to be his duty, and consequently must acknowledge the propriety of his hearkening to any serious religious considerations his pious relatives or friends may think fit to suggest. When God has prepared any by afflictions, to receive instruction from himself, he has equally prepared them to receive instruction from any who are able and disposed to instruct them; and therefore it becomes them to improve the favorable opportunity of doing good; which, if they neglect, may be followed with deplorable consequences.

4. If God employs chastenings as the most powerful means of instructing men in the knowledge of spiritual and divine things, then those who refuse instruction under his correcting hand, have reason to fear he will say concerning them, "Let them alone," that they may perish in their ignorance. He has said, "My Spirit shall not always strive with man." He said of Israel," My people would not hearken to my voice, and Israel would none of me. So I gave them up unto their own hearts' lust; and they walked in their own counsels." He said to the same people, "Because I have purged thee, and thou wast not purged, thou shalt not be purged from thy sins any more, till I have caused my fury to rest upon thee." Our Saviour illustrated this alarming truth by one or two parables. One is the parable of the barren fig-tree. "A certain man had a fig-tree planted in his vineyard; and he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none. Then said he unto the dresser of his vineyard, Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig-tree, and find none; cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground?" The dresser of the vineyard plead for its being spared one year more, but consented, that if then it continued barren, it might and ought to be cut down. After means had so often failed, it was time to use them no longer. The other parable respected the man that had been awakened and reformed, but relapsed, and his last state was worse than

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