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the distant wanderer with compassion, and sends his messenger Affliction to bring him back to his fold. Chastisements are highly salutary to restore health to his soul, and to lead our feet into the paths of righteousness.
It may be worth while, briefly, to notice those pursuits which often lead the Christian astray; and of which it is the design of affliction, in some good degree, to cure.
There are, I apprehend, four causes of departure from God, of which a Christian is susceptible, mental error, self-indulgence, creature-attachments, and worldly influence.
Mental error, or speculative opinions in religion, have deceived many,
have robbed the church of much peace, have defamed the religion of Christ, and have injured, perhaps irreparably injured, the deluded subjects of such notions. Who can understand his errors? The man who can do it, must be a wise, a watchful, a holy saint indeed! There are an unhappy number (who are ever learning, and never come to the knowledge of the truth:” and the reason is plain, they will maintain the sufficiency of their own reason to guide them; and they will not submit to be taught by the Holy Spirit, who guides his people into all truth. And there is a portion of the same spirit in many of the professors of the gospel. They exalt their own reason; and they compliment that of others. They have an apostle of their party, a modern Paul, an Apollos, or a Cephas, whose writings they read and admire, to the sad neglect of God's word. Hence their mind and conscience become defiled; corruptions arise; and Satan is at hand to lead them captive at his will. How far are they now from godly simplicity and sincerity! Some pretend to rise high into the
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sublimities of eternal counsels and purposes, as though they were favored with an abundance of revelation. But alas! they have been soaring on the wings of Satan, transformed into an angel of light! Fixed, at length, upon some eminence, they look down upon others with disdain. So have I seen a youth at the top of the Monument, gazing at the people below, and remarking what little creatures the people in the streets appeared. But in a few minutes he came down to mix with the company, and became as little or less than they. Others, through vain speculations, sink down into self-righteousness, or party-spirit: here they lie grovelling in the dirt, and defiling their garments. Are any of my readers turned aside into any of these bye-path meadows? Hasten back again into "the good old way, that ye may find rest to your souls.”
Self-indulgence leads some persons astray. There is a proneness in human nature to gratify itself. The flesh loves ease and freedom from every mortification. How many are the carnal appetites of man! How ensnaring, how debasing to the mind! The food we eat, the liquids we drink, the raiment we wear, the houses we inhabit, with the various superfluities of life, all contribute to painper self, if self be not continually watched and brought into subjection,
Creature-attachments, also, draw the heart astray from God, whom we ought to love supremely, and at all times. Friendship is pleasant,butit may lead the mind astray from our best Friend. The disposition to please and be pleased, in persons of either sex, is very agreeable; but how apt to fascinate and enslave the soul! Husbands maylove their wives, and wives their husbands, and parents their chil
dren; but the heart must be kept with all diligence, or the creature will supplant the Creator in our affections.
Lastly, The influence of the world is apt to alienate our hearts from our eternal concerns. This influence is either alluring or oppressive. If pleasure tempts, if money allures, if ambition courts, how hard is it to resist these evils with firmness of mind, and with Godlike disdain! And if the world frowns, if business fails, if labor is painful, if families become troublesome or afflictive, how hard is it to depend on the providence of God! How prone is the Christian to be led astray by an impatient, murmuring spirit!
The Christian led astray by one or more of these evils, becomes a proper subject of Divine chastisement and compassion. As God abhors that which is evil, how plausible or flattering soever it may be to us, he must discover that abhorrence; and this he usually does by afflictive dispensations. It is often seen that worldly trouble and disappointment, nay, even relative affliction and bereaving providences, do not convince many of their error, do not banish self, the creature, and the world from their hearts. Hence appears the necessity of personal affliction. This is often the last and most effectual means which the Lord employs for the good of his people. This makes the saint see the cvils of which he is chargeable; and then he can most feelingly say, “Before I was afflicted I went astray;" but now, while under affliction, and after its removal, “ have I kept thy word.” Having found comfort in his affiction, from the quickening influence of the word of God, he can now say, “I know, O Lord, that thy judgments are right, and that thou in faithfulness hast afflicted me."
AMiction, when sanctified, discovers the ignorance, the vileness, and ingratitude of the heart. It leads the soul back again to God, the source and centre of its happiness. When this blessed end is accomplished, the saint shall be removed to a better world, or his affiction shall be removed from him. In this latter case we shall find him more attentive to God's word than ever, “But now have I kept thy word.” He will keep his eye upon the word of God, that it may direct, restrain, and comfort him; and while he reads, he prays, "Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law.” He will also keep his heart in frequent meditation and love of the Divine treasure, “Thy word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against thee; I have rejoiced in the way of thy testimonies as much as in all riches. Therefore, I esteem all thy precepts, concerning all things, to be right; and I hate every false way.” Such are his present sentiments, and such the benefit of his affliction.
Happy is the man who is chastened of the Lord “for his profit, that he may be a partaker of his holiness!" His aflliction will “afterwards yield the peaceable fruit of righteousness." His errors will vanish like mist before the sun; beloved self will be denied; the creature will be kept in its proper place; the world will appear in all its vanity and emptiness. Thus, when affiction has answered its end, God will be glorified, and the saint made more humble, more happy, more useful in the world.
May every reader, whether afflicted or not, bear in mind the conduct of the Psalmist, “I have refrained my feet from every evil way, that I might keep thy word.”
OBSERVATIONS ON 1 KINGS xxii. 21-23.
(In Answer to a Correspondent.) “And there came forth a spirit, and stood before Jeho.
"vah, and said, I will persuade him. And Jehovah "said unto him, Wherewith? And he said, I will go "forth, and I will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all "his prophets. And he said, thou shalt persuade him "and prevail also: go forth and do so. Now therefore "behold Jehovah hath put a lying spirit in the mouth "of all these thy prophets; and Jehovah hath spoken Wevil concerning thee."
When Ahab sent for Micaiah, there was evidently no sincerity in his request. Like many others, who ask counsel of their friends, and even seek direction of God, not with a view to be influenced, but in hope of being countenanced by it, he was determined to go against Ramoth-Gilead, let Micaiah say what he inight. The messenger sent to call Micaiah, seems to have been furnished with a secret message; and tried what he could do at tampering with the prophet. From hence it appears evident, that Ahab did not desire to know the mind of God, but chose delusion.
Micaiah came; and Ahab, thus accosted him: Micaiah, shall we go against Ramoth-Gilead, to battle, or shall we forbear? Micaiah answered in a strain of irony, (which might be very evident from his tone and manner of delivery,) “Go and pirosper: Jehovah will doubtless deliver it into the hand of the king. Who can hesitate on the truth of that which has the testimony of four hundred prophets to confirm it?" Ahab felt the irony, and conjured him