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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 ? 6 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. His
· 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 ?
We may therefore conclude, that when affliction renders a man humble, and resigned to the will of God; when it tends to wean him from the world, and produces a change in his whole spirit and conduct; it is, because the God of all grace is employing it as a mean, whereby to lead him to deep consideration; and through the accompanying power of the Spirit, to true repentance, faith, and holiness.
So, when in prosperity the heart expands with benevolence; when a man is cheerfully employed in diffusing a portion of that comfort around him which he himself enjoys; when he is labouring to glorify his Redeemer, by aiding those institutions which have for their object the dissemination of divine truth; when he is led to consider himself as a steward of the manifold gifts of God; and when all this is accompanied with true humility, unostentatiousness, and self-denial : then we may safely conclude that God has blessed his basket and his store ; that all his fruitfulness is the effect of grace alone, and not the natural consequence of mere worldly abundance. .: How precious then is the grace of God. Natural evils are converted into spiritual blessings, when thus sanctified by divine grace. And without this grace, patural blessings, such as health, plenty, friends, and influence, become snares and excitements to sin and rebellion. : 0! then let me ever pray for grace to use both affliction and prosperity aright. Lord, impart unto me this inestimable treasure. When thou givest grace, thou givest thyself: “ Thyself, of all thy gifts the crown."
Be still, my soul, and know the Lord,
Thy path is strew'd with piercing thorns;
Soon shall the painful conflict cease;
There shall thy joy for ever flow,
LVI. ON THE CHARACTER OF MARTHA AND MARY.
With what beautiful simplicity is the interview between Jesus and the sisters of Lazarus related by St. Luke, in the 10th chapter of his Gospel.
How gentle and yet how forcible is the reproof, which our Lord gave to Martha. How gracious the testimony which he bore to the piety of Mary. Mary sat at Jesus' feet and heard his words. Happy and favoured station! She sat at the feet of him who is infinite wisdom, and heard with teachableness and delight, those gracious truths which proceeded from his lips. The Lord inclined her heart, as he did Lydia's, to attend unto the things which he spake unto her. His words fell like good seed into a soil prepared by sovereign grace, and brought forth the blessed fruits of righteousness.
Martha was cumbered with much serving, and careful about many things. Her mind was ruffled at the apparent inattention of Mary, who had left her to serve alone. But Jesus, instead of reprov
ing, bestows his commendation on Mary's conduct; since he came to their house, not for the purpose of feasting himself with their earthly dainties, but to feast them with the delicious truths of Gospel grace.
This family picture is often exhibited in the Christian world. We are naturally more inclined to the bustle of religious occupations, than the retired devotional exercises of meditation and prayer.
Martha's hospitality was in itself commendable, and sprang from love to her Saviour: but the hurried state of her mind, and her neglect of a precious season for spiritual improvement, were highly reprehensible. She forgot her own spiritual wants; and the great object of Christ's visit. She was cumbered with much serving. Her spirit got ruffled. An improper feeling carried her away beyond the bounds of affection and decorum. She even interrupted our Lord in his discourse with Mary, and wished him to dismiss her with a suitable reproof for neglecting her household concerns. “Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me.” The reproof however, unexpectedly fell upon herself. ~ Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things, but one thing is needful; and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” This faithful admonition, was no doubt sanctified to her ; for, “ Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus."
We cannot contemplate this family scene without being struck with the value of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.
A mind active and ardent, alive to neglect, and susceptible of irritation, is generally admired by the world, as indicative of a noble spirit ; whilst a retired, noiseless, yet humble and obedient frame of heart is ridiculed or despised, as low and unmanly.