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SERM. his followers some useful religious instruc

XIV.

"" tion. Suppose ye (says he) that these

"Galileans were sinners above all the Ga

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lileans, because they suffered such things? "I tell you, Nay; but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish."

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Two instructive lessons are to be drawn from hence; first, that when we see misfortunes fall on our neighbours, it is very wrong in us to interpret them into judgments to conclude that they have happened to them on account of their sins; and, secondly, that the right use to make of them would be (without considering them at all as relating to others, or endeavouring to pry curiously into God's dispensations) to apply them to ourselves, to take warning by them, and to break off our sins by repentance, lest the same, or worse, calamities overtake us.

Our Saviour well knew the heart of man; for it is certain that we are very much

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much inclined to assign the sufferings SERM. which others undergo, to some sins, either open or secret, of which they have been guilty: whether it be that we are induced to it from a desire of attributing our own exemption from the same misfortunes to our innocence, or whether we are flattered with appearing to understand God's dispensations, or whether we think it a mark of piety to censure those whom the Almighty afflicts; the fact is, that it is greatly the custom among men, when any one is attacked by some remarkable calamity, to be immediately searching for, and endeavouring to discover, the occasion of it in his iniquities. From whatever cause this practice proceeds, it is very presumptuous and unreasonable, and not only so, but it is most probably in general unjust; since our Saviour peremptorily denies that any such conclusions can, with certainty, be collected:"Suppose ye that

"these

SERM. "these Galileans were sinners above all

XIV.

"the Galileans, because they suffered such

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things; or those eighteen upon whom "the tower of Siloam fell, and slew them,” (alluding to another late occurrence) "think ye that they were sinners above "all men that dwelt in Jerusalem? "tell you, Nay."

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If we look into the history of past times, we shall find that many of those characters, who endured the greatest calamities, so far from being more wicked than those who lived at the same time, were eminently distinguished for their piety and virtue; and yet, even some of these were reproached for suffering in consequence of their sins. The misfortunes of Job, you know, were caused by his virtue; it was that which drew on him the envy and malice of the devil; yet his friends, seeing what he underwent, although they could not, with all their ill-natured penetration,

discover

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discover any open stain in his life and man- SERM.
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ners, and, although they had been wit
nesses of his continued piety and up-
rightness, yet they would have it that he
was vicious in secret; that, though his
actions were apparently virtuous, his prin-
ciples and his heart were corrupt. When,
after the shipwreck of St. Paul, the viper
fastened on his hand, how ready were the
people amongst whom he was, to cry out,
"No doubt this man is a murderer, whom,

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though he has escaped the sea, yet ven

geance suffereth not to live." They looked when he should have experienced the usual effects of the bite of a venomous beast, "when he should have swollen, "or fallen down dead." So, likewise, on meeting with the man that was blind from his birth, the disciples of our Saviour asked him, Master, who did this sin, this "man or his parents, that he was born "blind?" so closely did they connect to

gether

SERM, gether sin and misfortune; but Jesus an

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swered," Neither hath this man sinned,

nor his parents, but that the works of "God should be made manifest in him;

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that is, that I might have an opportunity

⚫ of proving to you that I am a messenger sent from God, by working his cure ;'which he accordingly did.

Indeed there are so many reasons, for which misfortunes may fall on a person besides his sins, that candour should always prevent us from putting upon them that construction. Had there, indeed, been no wickedness among men, there had been no misery; they entered the world together; every man has done something towards perpetuating both, and yet it can by no means be concluded, that when any person suffers more intensely, he hath therefore sinned more enormously than his fellows. God sometimes permits afflictions to come upon us, as a trial of our faith and patience

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