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inner life, nor measure his capacities for sorrow. It may
be that the outward aspect of the trial gives but the faintest indication of its real power; but even when it is plainly seen to be one of the most grievous which can afflict man, the bitterness of his anguish can be tasted by no other; we are divided from him by the necessary condition of our separate existence, for we too bear about with us the incommunicable joys and sorrows which belong to our own individual being ; and we do not and cannot know how deeply the iron is entering into his soul. When we are grieved at his griefs, and do most truly feel for and with him, there is still very much in which we cannot share ; the heaviness that clouds many long hours of every day; the burthen of the night-watches; the protracted aching of the heart; much that is too deeply felt to be told, and can be fully known only to God.
None should be more ready to confess that their acquaintance with the peculiarities of others' sufferings is limited and imperfect, than those who address the sick and afflicted. It were grievous, did we seem to them intrusive, insensible to the sacredness of affliction, or yet unprepared to offer that true sympathy which, with all its imperfections, is most soothing, which they may well claim, and which we have known too much of suffering ourselves to withhold.
If we would trace the history of suffering, we must first look back to its origin.
We know that as our unfallen nature was created in
the beginning, every faculty and affection was so ordered as to minister only to happiness, and that the wonderful connexion between soul and body contributed to the perfectness of both. It was not until Adam sinned by putting self in the place of God, the will of the creature above the will of the Creator, that death came into the world. Had there been no transgression there would have been no pain ; which is not known among the sinless, and has no place in heaven.
Hence it is that all forms of suffering are evidences of man's fall; those which wear down the physical strength, and make the course of life a protracted dying ; such also as are occasioned by the loss of those we love; the griefs which spring from crushed affections; and still more evidently the pain which follows actual wrong doing, and the fearful throes of impenitent remorse.
In these thoughts there is, alas! no comfort; for if by nature we are prone to evil, and by character are actually sinful, and if therefore suffering be what we both inherit and also deserve, what is there to hinder every new sin from bringing fresh suffering, and then increased suffering from lashing us into the madness of more aggravated transgression ? This indeed were frightful to contemplate ; for who could endure to be abandoned here to pain, to be searched through and through by anguish, without seeing either a limit to its duration, or a purpose for it to accomplish. Yet if we consider only man's deservings, how should he look for better things, who at the first revolted from God, and has ever since been ready to widen the breach between himself and his Maker ?
The compassion of God Himself could alone deliver us from so fearful a condition. And the name which we all bear suggests the means of this deliverance. We are called Christians because we belong to our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. He, the eternal Son of God, graciously took the burthen of humanity upon Him to redeem us through his life, death, and resurrection, from sin, and from its necessary consequence, suffering. By his one oblation of Himself once offered, He made a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction, for the sins of the whole world'. For his merit only, are we, through faith, counted righteous before God? The power
both of sin and of suffering is thus broken for us. Of sin, since if we are living members of Him to whom we were joined in our baptism, we are ever receiving through Him, from the Father, the gift of the Holy Ghost, to enlighten and sanctify us, and mould us into conformity with his blessed image ; so that we may continually in this strength put sin away, as that which can no longer claim dominion over us.—Of suffering too; for our Lord, in our place, and as our representative, suffered for us, that He might deliver us from the bitter pains of eternal death; and that, to them that are truly his, there should now remain no condemnation. And by the same great and mysterious atonement, He has changed the character of those temporal sufferings about which we are now inquiring. When He stood forth, in our nature, as the new head of our race, and triumphed where Adam fell, He healed the sick and raised the dead, as being the Conqueror for us of those powers to which man had been brought into subjection ; and if we are
i Communion Service.
“ found in Him,” we are made partakers of his victories. Those afflictions which were as fierce beasts going about to destroy, have been tamed by the gracious hand of Christ, and are made to minister to the wants of his people. They which were as deadly poisons, aggravating the diseases of our souls, are changed into healing medicines, in the gift of the great Physician.
While we are in a world where sin and temptation are yet found, suffering cannot be taken away. But if we are able to recognize in it the loving correction of a Father, we may even rejoice in tribulation." For with all its bitterness it is indeed a dispensation of healing, and it is ever meant to accomplish, through the blessing of God's good Spirit, some merciful purpose for all who will receive it meekly as from Him. Generally, something will be found in the nature of the trial, which addresses itself to some peculiarity in the character or circumstances of him to whom it is sent,—and if this fitness be perceived by the sufferer, he may see also the hand from which it comes, and the purposes for which it is appointed.
Perhaps the world is all fair and bright round some young and joyous spirit; the present full of pleasures which have not yet lost their freshness ; the future glowing with still happier anticipations. A thousand engagements fill the time; nor, amidst the pressure of all these daily pursuits, is God quite forgotten. His public worship is not altogether slighted, private prayer is not wholly neglected. His service takes its turn with that of the world and of self. But the heart has not yet learned that God is the supreme object, his will the standard to which all must be referred: there is no depth, perhaps no reality in its religion.
Affliction comes, and the tumult of the world is exchanged for the stillness of a sick or saddened chamber. God has called aside out of the crowd this one of his servants to speak with alone. Solemn truths, before unknown, or forgotten, or put aside to a more convenient season, are now brought before the stricken heart. Perhaps for the first time it learns that “ life is earnest;" that time itself is a gift, which we must not abuse by a thoughtless abandonment to the impulses of the undisciplined mind; that religion does not consist in a certain amount of work done, one day in seven given to God, to ransom all the others for ourselves ; in a certain portion of religious reading got through, chiefly that we may have leave from our consciences to read, and think, and feel, in the main, after the imaginations of our own hearts ; in a certain amount of almsgiving, to set free all the rest of our worldly goods for selfish