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the cultivation of Christian tempers, and scrupulous in the choice of Christian companions, whom thou hast called the salt of the earth, and the light of the world; and to whom it is thy good pleasure to give the kingdom.
The believer's trials sometimes spring from the IMMEDIATE HAND OF GOD.
The wife is deprived by death of her earthly support, a tender husband. The husband, of an affectionate wife.
The parent sees the hope of his declining age sink into the grave. The child is left an orphan in a wicked and ensnaring world. The tenderest ties are snapped asunder by the unrelenting hand of death. Diseases of various kinds are commissioned to invade our frame. One faculty after another is taken away, or greatly impaired. Earthly comforts droop and die. Riches fly away. Poverty advances, and nothing but clouds and storms appear in sight.
In such a situation the poor trembling believer is sorely assaulted by the tempter to doubt of his interest in Christ, of the love of God to his soul, of the truth of the promises, of the power of his Redeemer, of his willingness to save. In short, he is tempted to unbelief and hard thoughts of God.
At such bereaving seasons, injudicious friends are apt to suspect his character, and like those of Job to charge him with hypocrisy.
The ungodly rejoice over him, saying: “there, there, so would we have it. You see what is the end of his prayers, and religion. If he be a child of God, let him deliver him, if he will have him."
But the triumphing of the wicked is short. The very storm which purifies the humble believer, often strikes the scorner dead. Death, like a tiger, darts upon him in a moment, when he is least
aware of his approach. He, who being often reproved, har
deneth his neck, shall suddenly be cut off, and that without remedy; whilst the child of God calmly waits the hour of his dismission, and even longs to be dissolved, that he may be with Christ.
0! the depth of the goodness and severity of God! By these trials, the Lord brings the faith and love of his people into lively exercise, and thus demonstrates the efficacy of true religion.
The graces of the Spirit generally thrive most in a rugged soil, and in tempestuous seasons. Like the Israelites in Egypt, they increase in the midst of opposition, persecution, and suffering; for as gold shines brightest in the furnace, so the Lord's people glorify him most in the fires. (Is. xxiv. 15.) The believer's trials arise also from HIS INWARD
This is more painful to him than all the rest, because the sufferings he endures from indwelling sin are the bitter fruits of that evil nature, which is so offensive to God his Saviour.
He can bear with calm composure the taunts of men; he can patiently submit to be accounted a fool for Christ's sake; yea he can suffer joyfully the spoiling of his goods, and even the loss of life itself: but he cannot endure the inward workings of corruption. He cannot submit to the power of indwelling sin. He cannot tamely suffer his mind to be assaulted by his spiritual enemies. not bear the thought of losing that joy and peace through believing, which is the very foretaste of heavenly felicity
O! the anguish of his mind, when corruption rages. How fervently does he pray for deliverance. How precious is the blood of Jesus at such seasons. He flies to the strong for strength. He takes refuge in the wounds of Jesus, and is safe.
This trial, like every other, is over-ruled for good. A holy watchfulness, an increased dread of sin, a
jealous godly fear, a spirit of prayer, a more simple dependence on Christ, a more hearty loathing of self, a more ardent breathing after holiness and heaven are excited in the soul.
Thus, through grace, Satan is defeated, and the tempted believer comes out of the furnace, as gold tried in the fire, leaving nothing but the dross behind.
Happy are the people who have God for their Lord; yea, happy art thou, O! Israel: who is like unto thee, 0 ! people, saved by the Lord, who is the shield of thy help, and the sword of thy excellency ! and thine enemies shall be found liars unto thee. The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.
O! 'tis sweet to trust in Jesus,
To rely upon his word ;
When we trust a pard'ning God.
Here we meet with heavy crosses,
Many burdens we must bear;
Lighter than the ambient air.
Then, my soul, why so distressed ?
Why cast down with anxious fear?
He the drooping soul can cheer.
Gird thy loins, let hope support thee ;
Speed with cheerful haste thy way ;
Will conduct to endless day.
LV. ON AFFLICTION.
All the ways of God are good; yea, all the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth, unto such as love him and keep his commandments.
Should any one ask: why then does the Lord afflict his people? We answer, because he loves them. “ As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten." This will appear from a few reflections on the nature, design, and end of affliction.
Its nature is indeed unpleasant to the children of men. St. Paul declares it to be “not joyous, but grievous.” The cup of affliction is composed of bitter ingredients, at which our nature revolts. But should we commend the physician, who prescribed only luscious medicines for a distempered stomach? His skill would rather appear in administering a bitter, yet salutary draught. And so it is with our heavenly Physician. He knows our inward malady, and he has medicine to heal our sickness. Affliction is one of his medicinal dispensations, which is more or less bitter, according to the spiritual malady of his people. But our heavenly Father, who does not willingly afflict nor grieve the children of men, never infuses more wormwood and gall, than is needful to correct our vitiated souls.
Hence we plainly see what is the design of affliction. It is to do us good. The tender-hearted physician for the body, aims at nothing but his patient's recovery. He calls every day. He watches every turn of the complaint. And is our heavenly Physician less attentive to his dear afflicted children ?
He calls not merely once a day. He is always near them. His eye is always upon them. His ears are always open to their prayers.
When he sees a favourable change in their spiritual state, he administers the cordials of his promises to
strengthen and restore them to that peace and comfort and joy, which before the afflictive dispensation they were not in a proper frame of spirit to receive.
Thus we see the gracious end of affliction. Before the trial came, they were perhaps growing lukewarm, or insensibly gliding into a sinful compliance with the customs of the world. Or, they were settling upon the lees, and feeling quite at ease in Zion. Surrounded with earthly comforts, they were forsaking the fountain of living water, and idolizing some created good in the bosom of domestic life. But now, they return unto the Lord, and find their happiness in their God.
Our heavenly Father, in perfect accordance with his covenant of life and peace, sends the needful trial : “ If thy children forsake my law, and walk not in my covenant; then will I visit their transgressions with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes.” Thus for a season, if need be, we are in heaviness through manifold temptations.
The Lord deals graciously with his people. Though he puts them into the furnace, yet he will not suffer it to be heated one degree more than is needful to consume the dross and purify their souls. He presides over it himself. His wisdom and love regulate its strength. Thus, in the midst of all their trials, he never leaves them nor forsakes them. In this way, the Holy Spirit carries on the great work of sanctification in their souls, manifesting their sonship by these fatherly corrections, and fitting them for that pure region where nothing can enter that defileth or maketh a lie.
And is it thus with God's dear children ? Then 0! my soul, receive the cup of affliction with humble resignation, and adoring love. Kiss the hand that smites. Bless the rod which chastises.
Whilst the bramble is suffered to grow wild, the