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vine is pruned. Whilst God says of the wicked, “ Let them alone;" he scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. And truly his “ loving correction” shall make thee great.
How consoling then to the true believer is this sweet assurance of the royal Psalmist : “ All the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth unto such as keep his covenant and his testimonies." David was a tried saint. He had often been made to pass through the furnace of affliction, and always found himself the better for his trials. In the 119th Psalm he “ It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I might learn thy statutes. Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now have I kept thy word.” And then he adds, “ Thou art good and doest good : teach me thy statutes.” Thus acknowledging the goodness of his heavenly Father, in not leaving him to follow the devices and desires of his own deceitful heart.
It is delightful to consider that the sufferings which believers are now called to endure, are the only sufferings which they shall ever experience. In heaven there is neither sighing nor sorrow. None of its inhabitants say, I am sick, for the former things are passed away. What an animating thought! It should make the children of God exclaim with the apostle : “I am full of comfort, I am exceeding joyful in all my tribulation.”
If we read the word of God with due attention, we shall find that the most eminent saints have been the most tried. The faith of Abraham-the patience of Job—the meekness of Moses—the purity of Joseph--the devotion of Daniel-would not have been so conspicuous, had not these peculiar graces been brought into exercise by trials remarkably adapted to each.
God is a Sovereign, wise and good. He can over
rule the sorest temptations of Satan, to the establishing of his people.Who is he that will harm you, if ye
be followers of that which is good?” is a question full of comfort to the tempted believer. Suffering he may endure; but real injury he shall not sustain, since eternal truth hath declared, that “all things shall work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” « Wherefore, let them that suffer according to the will of God, commit the keeping of their souls to him in well-doing as unto a faithful Creator."
The happiness of man consists, not in an exemp. tion from trials, but in having his will swallowed up in the will of God. For this we are taught to pray: " Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven." Just in proportion as we approximate to the unreserved obedience of the heavenly host, we shall be happy. Our trials are sent for this very purpose to mould our will into the divine will, and consequently to make us holy and happy.
From these few reflections, it is evident that the advantages which believers derive from sanctified afflictions are many and great.
In affliction, we often detect the sin which most easily besets us. This is the most difficult sin to find out, though the most in operation, on account of its blinding and deceiving nature. We have therefore cause to bless God for shewing to us the accursed thing, and wherefore he contendeth with us.
In affliction, we obtain clear views of the insufficiency of all earthly things. A dark shade is thrown over the smiling scenes of busy life. We discover the little value of those possessions, the attainment of which once appeared so desirable.
In affliction, we learn to estimate above all treasures, an assured interest in Jesus Christ. The blessedness of the believer is then felt and acknow
ledged. His peace of mind, and hope of glory, the fruits of saving faith, are esteemed more precious than rubies.
In affliction, the promises of God's holy word are sweeter than honey and the honey-comb. They are sacred cordials administered by infinite love, to revive and strengthen the drooping saint.
Thus, whilst the prosperous worldling in the midst of his abundance despises the "hidden manna ;” the contrite believer in his heaviest trials can extract sweetness from othe wormwood and the gall.” A Saviour's love experienced in the soul, renders all palatable, however distasteful to our nature.
If man had never sinned, suffering had been unknown; but having lost the divine image, infinite wisdom is pleased to appoint sundry trials, as means
his hands, for restoring us to that filial spirit which we lost through the fall. Sanctified affliction can bend the stubborn will, and bring us to the frame and temper of little children.
Hence we find in Scripture much to this effect. “Despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him ; for whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he, whom the father chasteneth not. Shall we not be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live? He. chastens us for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness. Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous but grievous; nevertheless af. terward, it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby : wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, and make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way, but let it rather be healed.”
Under affliction, the believer is like a city set: on a hill. His faith and patience, his meekness, and resignation cannot be hid. They manifest the reality of his religion, and prove to an unbelieving world, the blessedness of serving God.. His mind is kept in perfect peace. His heart is full of holy joy. He lies as clay in the hands of the potter; and with his suffering Saviour he can say::“ Father, not my will, but thine be done.” If doubts and fears are permitted to overshadow his, soul, they only resemble the dark clouds which pass athwart a summer's sky. The manifestation of a Saviour's love soon dispels the gloom.
The afflicted believer is stirred up to closer communion with God. He girds his loins. He trims his lamp. He waits for the coming of his Lord in the daily exercise of faith and prayer. When his trials are heavy, his prayers are more fervent and frequent; for, the same wind which extinguishes a less fire; causes the greater to burn with increased intenseness. What saith our divine Master ? “ Because iniquity shall abound, the love of many will wax cold;" but, “ be that endureth unto the end, the same shall be saved.”.
In seasons of deep distress, Satan is sometimes very busy in suggesting hard thoughts of God; exciting doubts, and creating murmurings. Many battles are then fought, and the faith and love of the believer are tried to the uttermost. But he who is in him, is greater than he who is in the world. Jesus, who vanquished Satan in our nature, by his Spirit, destroys the power of the adversary in the hearts of his people. Thus, he enables them to rise superior to all their trials, through his grace which is sufficient for them.
In tribulation the child of God experiences many sweet tokens of his heavenly Father's care.
sick chamber is the abode of grace, mercy, and peace. The bright beams of hope dispel the gloom which gathers round the grave, and raises his enraptured soul far above a sorrowing world. At such a season of unspeakable delight, his heart is loosened from every earthly tie, and in the language of the exulting apostle, he can say: “O! death, where is thy sting? O! grave, where is thy victory?"
Thus affliction has a two-fold effect. Like the wintry blast, it kills the noxious weeds of lust, pride, and covetousness; while, like the genial warmth of summer, it cherishes all the kindly graces of the Spirit, humility, purity, and love.
Many persons are apt to imagine, that if they are not deeply afflicted, in some way or other, they cannot be the children of God. We see instances how. ever of excellent characters passing through life with comparatively few trials, and yet maintaining a peculiar spirituality of mind. There is certainly no necessary connexion between affliction and resignation; or prosperity and gratitude.
When adversity meets a man destitute of grace, it stirs up within him a rebellious spirit against the moral government of God; or at least, it calls forth his natural corruption into more active operation.
When prosperity pours its profusion upon an unconverted person, it tends to foster all the evils of pride, insolence, and independence; so that the man almost forgets that he is mortal, a being accountable to his Maker. It is grace alone which makes all the real difference between one man and another. “ By the grace of God," said St. Paul, “I am what I am.” And to the Corinthians he adduced this argument as a ground for humility: “Who maketh thee to differ from another? And what hast thou, that thou didst not receive ? Now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory as if thou hadst not received it ?"