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covenant to-day with the Saviour, that his love is a sufficient defence against every foe, and a sufficient consolation in every distress.
We have only to notice further the favour which David secured with Saul's servants, and with all Israel and Judah. The amiability and integrity of his conduct won him golden opinions every where; and even those who might have envied him his successes, and hated him for his favour, were constrained to admire his sterling principle. My brethren, it is a blessed thing when we can exhibit the beauty of holiness, and when our religion is recommended and endeared by our virtue; when we are gentle as well as faithful, and fascinating as well as good; when all men are constrained to confess, that, if our creed appears enthusiastic, yet at least it produces very precious fruits. Practical Christianity will produce us enemies in a bad world ; but, my brethren, it will also secure us many friends among the impartial and the good. It may be the means at last of overcoming the hostility which it at first excites. We are to expect enmity; but o let us not provoke it. If our standard of doctrine and of practice separates us from the many, let us see to it that it lifts us far above them; that it affords a pattern as well as a proof; and by making us better subjects and better citizens—better, in short, in every public, and private, and social relation-leave our adversaries without excuse, and convict where it does not convert. We read of David, that “all Israel and Judah loved him," and that his “name was much set by;" and we read of Jesus, “that he grew in favour with God and man:” and though we know that the former had afterwards many enemies, and that the latter was “despised and rejected of men,” yet if we arc followers of either, we shall endeavour to imitate the graces which procured them respect, as well as those which inflamed opposition and indignity. In a word, my beloved, we shall strive to give a faithful portrait of the religion of Christ, and then we must leave the rest, as far as others are concerned, in the hands of our God. May he bless bis own word !
THE BLESSEDNESS OF SANCTIFIED SORROW
REV. T. Rapples, LL.D.
"Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.”—MATTHEW, v. 4.
“ It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting." Apparently a very rash and inconsiderate speech! a persect paradox; a contradiction almost in terms. And yet it was the declaration of the wisest man that ever lived, intimately and accurately acquainted with all the states and conditions of human society, and who knew more than almost any other who has left his experience on record for our instruction, what the house of mourning meant. Nor can this be exhibited as the judgment of one who was not intimately acquainted with the “ house of feasting;" who had not tasted of these things. He drank deep of the intoxicating bowl of this world's pleasure ; he tried every scene of amusement, and every source of pleasure it contained; but he found them all cisterns, broken and dried : and when he calmly reriewed, and impartially estimated the whole case, lie was compelled to pronounce, “ Vanity of vanities, saith the preacher; all is vanity.”
But, beloved, a greater than Solomon is here; and his testimony is substantially the same: “ Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted." This was a novel sentiment to those by whom the declaration was in the first instance heard ; it was another of those “ hard sayings," which they found it very difficult to hear: nor has the same sentiment lost any of its unpalatableness, notwithstanding the ages that have elapsed between the period of its first announcement and the present day.
“ Bleseed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted." What a strange declaration! What, is there blessedness in grief? Is there blessedness in sorrow? Is there blessedness in disappointment? Is there blessedness in pain? O, yes ; it is even so, when these are sanctified, and when they have that salutary influence upon the heart, which it is the gracious and benevolent design of our Heavenly Father they should exert and secure. Then they are blessed indeed : there is a rose of celestial fragrance concealed amongst the thorns; there is a note of incomparable sweetness arising from the bitter cry; and beneath the deep disguise a blessing inestimable, infinite, and eternal, is contained. “Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted."
Two things it behoves us to do, in order to elucidate and explain this passage. First, we must ascertain what that mourning is which Christ thus pronounces blessed. And in the second place, we must ascertain what that blessedness is which he declares to be inseparably connected with that mourning.
Will you give us your
are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted." patient attention to these things.
First, let us ascertain what thAT MOURNING IS which Christ thus PRONOUNCES BLESSED. Is it any kind of mourning? Is it every kind. of mourning? Assuredly not. There is a mourning that is highly criminal; there is a grief that is inseparably connected with a curse; there is a sorrow of the world that worketh death.
Such is the mourning that springs from a bad source. Some men mourn because their pride is wounded ; something has occurred to lower their consequence, and degrade their dignity in the sight of their fellow-men; and they are stung to the heart with vexation, mortification, and chagrin; and they think that they do well to be angry, and that they do well to sorrow and grieve, even unto death. There are some who mourn from envy. They see others placed in what they esteem happier circumstances than themselves ; richer, wealthier, more prosperous, more successful, more honoured than they are: and they mourn in sullen discontent over what they account the hardness of their lot. Thus the Psalmist, in an evil hour, tells us, that he was envious at the prosperity of the wicked. And to such a pitch did he suffer the unhallowed feeling to prevail in his mind, that he acknowledges he was so foolish, he was even as a beast before God, until he went into the sanctuary of God, anticipated the future, and saw their end; then he saw the folly of his unhallowed feelinge of envious discontent.
Again, such is the mourning that is the expression of a bad spirit. When grief is the expression of wrathfulness, peevishness, and discontent, then is sinful. Such was the mourning of the prophet Jonah, because of his gourd. Such is often the nature of the sorrow in which we indulge, who have set our hearts upon some beloved object, upon some creature comforts, upon some desirable possession, and it has pleased God to remove it from us.
Our gourd has withered; the beloved relative sickens and dies; the object of our idolatrous attachment is taken away, and we are overwhelmed with grief; we hang down our heads like bull-rushes ; tears are our meat day and night. But we sorrow not because there was a necessity for this painful dispensation : we sorrow not because our heart has set its affections so inordinately upon this beloved one, that it was essential for our chastisement and our salvation that it should be taken away from us. We mourn and we grieve because of the gratification of which we are thus deprived, and because of the sense of anguish we are thus called to endure. It is discontent at the dispensation, not sorrow at its cause, that has filled the heart with sadness, and suffused the eyes with tears. And indeed we may sum up all in one declaration all the sorrow, of every kind, all the mourning, that is not sanctified, is sin. It is unhallowed in its sources ; it is sinful in its principles; it is injurious in its tendency. It is sorrow of the world; it is not godly sorrow; it worketh death, and there is no blessing connected with it.
But what is that mourning which our Lord pronounces blessed? It is the mourning of the genuine penitent; it is the mourning of the true believer; wnose sorrow is sanctified, springing from sources which God approves, regiilated and controlled by principles which his Word supplies, tending to the advancement of his glory, and the present and eternal welfare of those who are its subjects. Blessed are they who thus mourn, for they shall be comforted. But let us specify particulars, that we may understand the nature of this sorrow aright.
In the first place, blessed are they who thus mourn for themselves. We have no opinion of that man's religion which has to do with every one but himself; who laments over everybody's failings but his own; who can discover the beam which is in his neighbour's eye, but cannot perceive the mote which is in his own eye. True it ie, that the real Christian must sigh and cry over national sins ; the abominations that are done in the land. When he beholds transgressors, in whatever walk or state of society he discovers them, he must be grieved. But no sorrow for the sins of others can be after a godly sort, unless we have first been sorry for our own sins. Here the sorrow of the mourner must begin, whose mourning is entitled to the blessing spoken of in the text. There must be a mourning for sin; original and contracted sin ; personal and national sin. There must be the mourning of genuine repentance; a true contrition; the anguish of the broken and contrite heart. O how deep, how agonizing must it be, when the sorrow of the parent, bereaved of his first-born, his only child, is presented as an illustration of it! “ They shall behold Him whom they have pierced, and mourn, and shall be in bitterness as one is in bitterness for his first-born, and mourn for him as one that mourneth for his only child." The true penitent, in the day when he is first convinced of sin, and perceives its malignant nature, its dreadful aggravation in the sight of the divine love, in the sight of divine purity and justice, feels as though there were no other in the universe, save himseif, unfallen; he feels as though the sins of all other men were nothing and vanity, compared with his sin ; the load of his guilt presses upon him as a burden too heavy to be borne; he acknowledges himself to be the chief of sinners; and in the anguish of bis spirit thus calls upon God: “ Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight.” From various sources the sorrow of the true penitent springs ; and from various considerations his grief on account of sin is deepened and augmented. He sees sin in its native odiousness; as the abominable thing which the soul of God hates. He sees sin as the cause of all the degradation, and suffering, and agony, and death, which the Redeemer condescended to endure. He sees sin as that which, if it be not removed in its presence, in its pollution, will for ever separate him from God, and shut him up at length in hell. O what an odious, loathsome, detestable thing is sin now; the sin in which he was once delighting; the sin which he once rolled as a sweet morsel beneath his tongue! His besetting sin—that which was dear to him as his right eye, or his right hand-he cuts it off, and casts it from him; while with a broken heart he exclaims, loathing himself, bemoaning his sad condition—" I bave sinned; what shall I do unto thee, O thou Eternal ? Behold I am vile; I loathe myself, and repent in dust and ashes. God be merciful to me a sinner."
But let it not be imagined, that this mourning for sin is confined to the period of the sinner's first conviction, and that the joy of pardon is succeeded by no future sorrow. No, he can never cease to mourn, even to the end of life, for the remembrance of the time past. He can never cease to weep when he is made to possess, even in mature age, the sins of his youth ; when he thinks upor those days of rebe.lion, of folly, and of crime. While there is, throughout the whole
of his mortal pilgrimage, remains of sin in the breast of the holiest and mos! devoted man, with which he must still engage, and maintain a perpetual struggle -over this he must continually mourn. Take the change in the case of Peter, in the case of Paul, as an example and illustration of this. O what unhallowed passions, O how many omissions; what idle words, what vain thonghts, what innumerable cases of positive and obvious sin in the heart and in the life, in the daily intercourse and conduct, of the most devoted of mankind! What a law in the members, continually warring against the law of the mind; and often bringing a Christian to loathe himself on account of them, bringing him into captivity to the law of sin. It is for this that he struggles, and agonizes, and pants for deliverance, and cries, “O wretched man that I am who shall deliver me from the body of this death?"
Then what cause has he to mourn over his unfaithfulness, his inconstancy, his sluggishness to all that is good, his reluctance oft-times to believe! His backwardness to speak for God; his attachment to the creature; his want of spirituality ; the cleaving of his spirit to the dust—these are the sources of sorrow ever appointed to the man of God. And often they render the record of his experience, like the roll of the prophet, which was written within and without, with weeping, and lamentation, and woe. But blessed are they who mourn thus, and whose sorrow has such a source ; “ Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted."
In the second place, blessed are they who mourn for their Christian brethren. They who mourn with the sorrow and sympathy of brotherly affection and Christian love. “ A new commandment," says Christ, “I give unto you, that ye love one another; as I have loved you, so do ye also love one another." And this is one of the most obvious expressions of that love, in the exercise of this sympathy, the sympathy which this love will ever maintain-to bear one another's burdens, and thus to fulfil this law of Christ. Blessed are they, then, that mourn with their sorrowing brethren, that are afficted in their afflictions, and weep with them that weep; and whose religion, pure and undefiled before God, is this—to visit the widows and the fatherless in their affliction, and to keep themselves unspotted from the world. But not only are the afflictions of the brethren a source of sorrow to the Christian, but he mourns over their sins, their follies, their failings, their falls. To see a fair profession blasted by some unhappy indiscretion; to see a character, hitherto unsullied, tarnished by some vile sin; to see the cause he is so anxious to promote injured and retarded, by one who ought to bave been its most efficient advocate; to see the Redeemer crucified in the very house of his friend; to see him crucified afresh by his own disciples, and held up to the seorn of an infidel and blaspheming world: 0, who that loves the Saviour but must mourn for this? Blessed are they who thue mourn, for they shall be comforted.
In the third place, blessed are they who mourn for the Church ; whe lament over the desolations of the Church ; of the diminution of her numbers ; the desertion of her temples ; the neglect of her ordinances ; the decline of her graces ; the death of her ministers; the attacks of her enemies ; the contentions of her members; the treachery of her professed and seeming friends. All thes; are sources of sorrow to the Christian: in all these things he must take a deep and painful interest. As he never ceases to pray for the peace of Jerusaicm,