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Mourners in Zion, be comforted! if yours be a life of sorrow, yours
also is a religion of hope. If the book of Providence seem to you to
be "written within and without," like Ezekiel's roll, in characters
of "lamentation and mourning, and woe," the Bible is filled with
consolation and peace and the more stormy your passage through this world,
the more awful GOD'S judgments, the more severe and confounding your trials
and bereavements may be, the more should that blessed book be endeared
to your hearts of which every true disciple will say with the afflicted
Psalmist, "This is my comfort in mine affliction."
It is not one of the least benefits of severe affliction, that it shatter our confidence in every other stay, and breaks up our hopes from every other quarter, and leads us, in simplicity, to search the word of GOD for comfort.
The grand peculiarity of the Bible, as a book of consolation, is, that while it seeks not to cast our sufferings into the shade, but rather sets them before us in all their variety and magnitude, it teaches us to find consolation in the midst of acknowledged sorrow, and causes light to arise out of the deepest darkness-"That no man should be moved by these afflictions: for yourselves know that we were appointed thereunto (1 Thess 3:3).
In many respects, it gives a more gloomy view of human life than we are oftimes willing to entertain. It represents affliction as "ordained" for us, and "appointed" so that it cannot be escaped. It tells us that our future life will be chequered with trials, even as the past has been. It gives no assurance of respite from suffering, so long as we are in this world-"For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake" (Phil 1:29). And when it traces these afflictive events to their causes, when it represents suffering as the fruit and the wages of sin,-when it charges us with guilt, and affirms that we have provoked the Lord to anger,-when it leads us to regard our sorrows as connected with our characters, and inflicted by a righteous governor and judge,-and when, carrying our eye beyond this world altogether, it points to an eternal state of retribution, where sorrows infinitely more severe, and judgments infinitely more confounding, await impenitent and unforgiven guilt.-it does present such a view of our present condition and future prospects as may well fill us with awe and alarm; and yet still it is the "book of consolation"; still it contains the elements of peace, the seed of hope the well-spring of eternal joy.
It is out of the very darkness of our present state and our eternal prospects, that the brightness of that dawn appears which shall issue in everlasting day; the golden rays of divine light and love appear in the midst of that thick cloud; the cup of bitterness is sweetened by an infusion of mercy, so that the Christian can be "joyful in the midst of tribulation," and "greatly rejoice, though now, for a season if need be he is in heaviness, through manifold temptations." "Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: but rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy" (1 Peter 4:12,13).