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"Make us glad according to the days wherein thou hast afflicted us. Let thy work appear unto thy servants, and thy glory unto their childi'en." — Psalm xc. 15, IG. This psalm is called a prayer of Moses, the man of God. On account of its sober and solemn thought of man's frailty as a child of the dust, doomed, after his fleshly nature, to return to dust again ; it is used in the burial service set forth by our branch of Christ's holy church. But it is not of mortal frailty alone that the man of God speaks, in words which sink so deeply into the heart of every reflecting sharer of the common heritage. There are closely linked with this heritage, sorrows of many kinds and of different degrees, which come up in review, as the record of experience and careful observation is made. And these are noted not merely as belonging to man's nature, just as the friend of Job could declare that "man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward," which an undevout philosopher might freely say; but as a portion of the lot assigned to him by a far seeing and overruling providence of God. It is in this connexion that the Christian teacher and the Christian professor should always view them. Sorrows and troubles, then, become trials and chastisements, parts of one great remedial system which has been established by an almighty, ever present and ever gracious Being, who has revealed himself as the Father of his intelligent creatures. And what a rich grouping of subjects, worthy the serious and earnest contemplation of every such creature. The mortality and swift-decaying state of man's bodily nature, the impending doom of his imperishable part when the grave shall claim its own, the pains and sorrows which cling to flesh, marking an end and
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aim devised by him who joined the soul to the body for trial and judgment ; these thoughts quicken man to a sense of duty and responsibility, and fill his mind with hope and fears for himself, love alternately swaying him, and with awe for the majesty, and for the goodness of God. The providence of God being duly recognised, as it is by the Psalmist, the prompt appeal for help in time of trouble and affliction is always to be made to the same hand from which they came. And this doctrine gives to the Christian a staff to lean on in his way through life, however rough and toilsome ; and a balm for the soul's refreshing, however wounded by the stroke of affliction, or weary with watching for deliverance from wo. A father wields the rod, and if he spare not, who shall doubt his love? And when the chastening, which for the present may seem grievous, shall have wrought its designed and proper work, the subject of that chastening will have the happy experience prayed for by the psalmist: "Make us glad according to the days wherein thou hast afflicted us." On behalf of the church and people of God, he shows by the prayer which he utters, his sense of dependence on the same divine hand which had caused them to be afflicted. Thou, God, who rulest thy people Israel, hast led us in the way of sorrow. "We bow to thy chastening power; but, God, how long wilt thou hide thy face from us? Turn us again into the paths of joy and gladness. "Make us glad according to the days wherein thou hast afflicted us." May our days of prosperity and rejoicing be equal to those of our adversity and mourning. Apart from their peculiar condition, as a nation selected by the Almighty to be the subjects of his special government as such, the history of the Israelites is but a type of that of the church of Christ, or of any community of men, so far as it displays the particular providence of God. He ordereth all things in heaven and on earth. And well will it be for all who acknowledge his personal existence, to look to him as the sovereign Disposer of the events of life. Much more strongly does this reflection commend itself
to those who are taught by the word of God, through his Son, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, that all things shall work together for good to them that love him. As Christians, we may use the language of our text, either in-
300 SERMO XXXV. dividually, or as a church and community, in regard to God's dealings with us ; especially when with a heavy heart we look back upon the sad history of the community in which we live. In common with several sister cities and other neighbouring portions of our southern country, our own city has been visited with the pestilence which walketh in darkness, and the destruction that wasteth at noonday, to a degree hitherto unknown by us. A darker cloud of sorrow has enveloped us than ever before shrouded our oft afflicted city, just when we had indulged the fond hope, almost the assurance of entire exemption from all liability to such dreadful scourges. The deep wail of sorrow is yet echoing in the hearts of those who have only heard its note afar. Each heart knows the bitterness of its own sorrow ; and while the absent could very imperfectly realize the dismay and desolation which swept over the places visited by the plague, it is, on the other hand, hard to estimate the weight of anxiety, the painful suspense and apprehension, and the sharp conflict which harassed and oppressed the hearts of the absent, who were bound by the closest ties, and knit by the tenderest sympathies with the immediate subjects of the divine visitation ; for such it really was. And we would fix the mind and heart upon this truth. Dark and appalling as the cloud was which passed over us, the hand of our God directed it. It was his chastening, bitter though it seems; and we are taught by the precious word of God, that "behind a frowning providence he hides a smiling face." Let us endeavour to see that face through the cloud which covers it, and find comfort in the view. Let us see in this afflictive providence the wise chastening ordained by our heavenly Father for our spiritual well being. In the midst of our sorrow, however deep its gushings, let there be mingled with it the fervent prayer to God that he
will make us glad according to the days wherein he has afflicted us, that he will not only help us to bear our sorrows patiently and meekly, but will also give us such clear views of our dependence on him, and of his love for us, as will cause our hearts to burn with love for him, and a desire to honour him more, and to serve him better. And to him we must look for real and abiding comfort. The world cannot afford a remedy for the wounds which it did not cause. Time may scar them over without healing them. The only healing balm must come from the hand which smote — the hand of our Father and our God.
SERMO XXXV. 301 If, then, our hearts turn God-ward in earnest supplication for his spiritual blessing, we may receive in answer such enlarged views of God's merciful dealings with us — of the vanity of all earthly things in comparison with the blessedness of another life, and such a peaceful state of child-like submission to a father's guidance, that we may be truly made glad according to the measure of our past sorrow: a consummation devoutly to be wished for by every responsible creature, especially by every professing Christian. And the teaching of God's chastening dispensation is not for those only who suffered from sickness or bereavement. Others need the lesson, and may read it with great profit. If, at a season of security and fancied exemption from epidemic disease, the wasting pestilence may come, sweeping from the earth multitudes who seemed to have a long lease of life ; should not the careless liver who has put off till old age or final sickness, all the work of preparation for death and judgment, take warning from the providence, and learn to become wise unto salvation? In vain do men hope to have opportunity to prepare to meet their God during their last sickness ; especially such sickness as has lately visited us. My own personal experience as well as observation, has taught me that lesson. If repentance and faith shall not have done their work in time of health, wo to the man whom pestilence seizes with the strong arm that drags to judgment. Let us all, my hearers, whatever may be our spiritual state,
call upon the Lord our God, who alone can do for us what we need, and ask that he will " make us glad according to the days wherein he has afiiicted us." We regard the second verse of our text as closely connected with, and indeed explanatory of the first. It shows how we are to be made glad — in what that gladness consists, and by what means it is made manifest. " Let thy work appear unto thy servants, and thy glory unto their children." That is, in the spiritual application which we would make of the whole text, let the wholesome teaching of thy providence be seen in the character and conduct of the subjects thereof, in the unmistakable proofs of its working, the fruits of the Spirit of grace. Let it appear to be the work of God indeed. For there is a too common and lamentable result of providences misunderstood or disregarded, which we would not leave unnoticed. There is often a callousness of heart
302 SERMO XXXV. confirmed, if not generated, by the suddenness and wide-spread extent of fatal disease, which is a dreadful perversion of the true teaching of God's remedial providences. "While God would soften the heart, wean it from the world to which it is too prone to cling, and teach it by the clearest signs how unstable are all the things thereof, that heart rejects the teaching, and says to itself, "Live as fast as you can — it may be your turn next — death shows no favour — let us try to forget it altogether." This is the secret language of many a man who has been hardened in his unbelief by the'very warnings which should have brought him in penitence and faith to the feet of a bleeding and blessed Saviour. Or the very rifeness of fatal sickness may have caused such familiarity with the form and features of death that its near approach is treated with indifference. Desperate, indeed, is the condition of such persons. We trust that few have been brought to it by the recent visitation of God's afflictive providence. To the "servants" of God, (and of these the psalmist speaks,) the teaching of his good providence is spe-
cially addressed. "Let thy work appear to thy servants," is his prayer. And if it only be made clear to those servants, that the affliction referred to was God's work, the direct dealings of his providence, then will the remedial work, which was the end of the providence, also appear — be manifested in the chastened servant of the Lord. Many such servants can say truly, under the promptings of a heart gladdened with a sober joy by the sad experience of God's chastening love, "It is good for me that I have been afflicted." An(i some, doubtless, besides David of old, can add, with a realizing sense of the work of the Lord, in correcting spiritual short-comings, "Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now, Lord, I have kept thy law." May this work of the Lord clearly appear to us and in us, his professed servants. As a community, may our people, as willing as any, either to bear or to relieve sickness, however severe, receive a new and fruitful lesson, not only in the charity which would heal the sickness, and minister to the comforts of their neighbours, but also in that higher charity which will move them to the diligent keeping of their own souls. May the work of God appear in the careful girding of our loins, and the trimming of our lamps for the coming of our Lord. or can we look at the
SERMO XXXV. 303 deep and wide track made in our midst by the march of death, without being reminded of our duty to give to the masses around us the pure word of God and the ordinances of the church. May God be glorified through the saving of souls by our instrumentality. And the "glory of God" is prayed for by the psalmist in our text: not only "the work of God," but his glory also. His work, indeed, is his glory in one sense surely, and that in the view which we have taken. The glory of God is shown chiefly in his grace. The crowning display of it was made in the act of gracious condescension known as the incarnation — in taking upon him the nature of man, to work out his salvation. Angels desire to look into the mysteries of that grace, to find in them new themes of glory to God. ow every working of the power of God unto sal-
vation, upon the heart of his believing children, is, to the extent of that working, a reflecting of the grace, which devised and wrought the plan of redemption. May that grace be strongly and clearly reflected in us and by us, as a church taught by the wise provision of our time-honoured Prayer Book to contemplate our Saviour in all his ofiices and in all periods of his history, including his sure but sudden and unlooked for coming again to judge the world. Called as we are, by this voice of our holy mother, to consider these things in their order, may our thoughts be quickened and our seriousness be deepened by the late powerful teaching of God's providence, coming in aid of the word which he has revealed to us, for the setting forth of his glory. May we strive so to exhibit all the fruits of the Spirit, that if we should be called with no immediate warning to leave this scene of probation, we may be prepared to off'er to our Lord and Master a sure proof of his indwelling in our hearts. And not only as a church, but also as individual subjects of its great Founder, and members of the body of which he is the Head, "God over all blessed forever;" let us, each, in the state of life to which he is called by God, strive to profit by all his teachings — not merely heeding the trumpet call of his most startling and direful providences, but gathering up likewise the faintest whisperings of his secret monitions for the furtherance of our godliness and his glory. Let not these tokens of God's yearnings for man's final salvation, be observed only for the moment, and be soon forgotten. It is often said by some, for a show of comfort administered for a
804: SERMO XXXV. time, and by others from a want of due sensibility, " Oh ! these things will soon be no more remembered." And we fear that such may be the case with most of us. This is just what we would not desire. We would have the afflictive providence of God stamped upon the memory forever, not for the perpetuation of sorrow — but of that godliness which is the proper fruit of Christian sorrow. We would have the soul-quickening recollection of God's merciful chastisement pass as a heritage to the rising
generation, that the glory of God, through the work of God may, in the words of the sacred writer, appear unto "the children" of his servants. May our growth in holiness, watered by tears of sorrow, whose precious balm is God's love, be shown to our children, that they may take lessons of wisdom and become a seed to serve the Lord. And it is not without good reason that we press this matter with much emphasis. For the hopes and the fears of the church of Christ are fixed upon the generations now coming forward to share with us the duties and responsibilities of life. Let not, then, the young be taught by our example to look upon death, by pestilence or any other natural cause, or the pains and sorrows of life as the allotments of chance, which they should meet with stoical firmness, or treat with sheer indifference, but let them learn that these are parts of one system of God's dealings, in which may be seen at one view the needy condition of our race, which calls for remedial grace, and the signal display of that grace which sets forth his glory. Well may we strive to inculcate such lessons of wisdom ; for the present age is strongly marked with infidelity. This poison to the soul, is infused into the literature which is so greedily seized by the young and imaginative. Forms of speech, habits of thinking, sentiments and practices are allowed and encouraged, whose tendency is to confirm the unwary in irreligion. Let Christian parents beware how they put any stumbling-blocks in the way of the faith and godliness of their children. And we say more ; let them have a care that these children be set in the right path, and that their feet be kept therein diligently, by all the proper helps and suasion which can be brought to bear on them during the pliancy of youth. May the word of God be given them as the ordained rule of life, the covenant relation with God be established and cherished as a strong motive, and lively incentive to obedience to that word.
SERMO XXXV. 305 And however you, yourselves, may be taught wisdom from on high, if tokens for good be shown by your heavenly Father, in his cheering mercies, which bring gladness with them, or in his chastise-
ments of sorrow, out of which we may be brought to gladness, in answer to the prayer of faith — strive to hand down to successive generations the work and the glory of God, by the stamp of godliness impressed on the hearts of your children. Let us cherish these pious sentiments, and with hearts glowing with love to God and love to each other, as children of the same heavenly Father, and melting with sympathy for those who are sorrowing under bereavement, lift up those hearts in fervent supplication, mingled with devout thanksgiving for the mercy which has spared our own households, and pray in the words of the psalmist, "Make us glad (0 God) according to the days wherein thou hast afflicted us. Let thy work appear unto thy servants, and thy glory unto their children."
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