2 Corinthians 4:9
persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.
Cast Down, But not DestroyedD. Fraser 2 Corinthians 4:9
Ministers in Their Weakness and StrengthC. Lipscomb 2 Corinthians 4:7-18
Growth Under PressureH. Macmillan, D. D.2 Corinthians 4:8-12
Not DestroyedScientific Illustrations and Symbols2 Corinthians 4:8-12
The Broken LifeProf. Lewis Campbell.2 Corinthians 4:8-12
The Frailty of the Instruments and the Excess of the PowerArchdeacon Evans.2 Corinthians 4:8-12
Trials in the Cause of ChristD. Thomas, D. D.2 Corinthians 4:8-12

In ministering the Word, we need to play, if we may so speak, on various instruments of music. We take the silver trumpet when we would utter "the joyful sound." We take the harp when we show forth God's praise. What shall we take for encouragement and comfort to the weary? As a great poetess has it -

"Experience, like a pale musician, holds
A dulcimer of patience in his hand." Let us play on the dulcimer. A good man struggling with adversity has been the subject of many moral reflections. We want to go further than the moralist, and show how the man of God is preserved in time of trouble. What heroism in the immortal Jew of Tarsus! All the sharp ordeal through which he passed - his personal disadvantages, the disparagement by false apostles jealous of his influence, the coldness of former friends when he was in bonds at Rome, the hardship and misconstruction under which his great work had been done, - all served only to bring out more fully the singleness of his aim and fortitude of his spirit -

" And give the world assurance of a man." Struck down, but not destroyed. Trouble threw him down, as one wrestler might throw another in the arena; but the cast was not mortal. He revived, for Christ lived in him. Nay; his sufferings increased his usefulness, No follower of Christ ever made such an impression on mankind, or did so much for the gospel, as this troubled, persecuted, perplexed, cast down Paul of Tarsus. Times have changed. Religious liberty prevails. Gross forms of persecution for confessing Christ are prevented by law and condemned by public sentiment. But it does not follow that the course of a faithful Christian is made easy. It is often beset with difficulty, broken, and uneven. Good men are "cast down;" and it is painful to have the skin grazed, even when the bones are not broken. Under such disappointing experiences feeble souls are apt to become more timid and more querulous, while bolder natures grow selfish and cynical. These last, if they have been struck down when grappling with something to them impracticable or forbidden, resolve to knock others down, and, if need be for their own interest, trample on them. But natures that are sweet and sound learn wisdom, consideration for others, and knowledge of themselves through hard experience. And hearts that trust in God have this joy in the worst defeat, that they are not, they cannot be, destroyed. Life is not wrecked by every trouble or by a score of troubles. A mistake may be the very making of a man, if he knows how to correct it. If the way is blocked in one direction, other paths are open. And if helpers fail and friends forsake, God still lives. We do not, indeed, conceal from ourselves that some overthrows cannot be quite remedied in this world; some losses are irreparable on earth, just as some diseases are incurable. But no Christian needs to be inconsolable. If he be stripped of ever so much that he valued, his best treasure remains, and is above the reach of worldly vicissitude. There is a good part which shall not be taken away. Thus life is always worth living. For a brave man it cannot be utterly wrecked by misfortune. For a devout man it cannot be shattered, though once and again struck down to the ground. The good Shepherd restores the soul. But many are the uses of adversity. Remember your faults and correct them; your mistakes, and avoid them; but do not waste time in vain regrets or temper in weak complaints. What purpose does it serve to brood over disappointment and "feed with sighs the passing wind"? How much better to gird up your purpose and make the best of what is left to you of time, strength, and opportunity! You may yet stand all the more firmly because of that casting down. The ill you have suffered may lead to higher good. "Though the outward man perish, the inward man is renewed day by day." God knows how to give -

"Secret refreshings that repair your strength,
And fainting spirits uphold." F.

We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed.
I. THE TRIALS ENCOUNTERED IN THE CAUSE OF CHRIST ARE SOMETIMES VERY GREAT. "We are troubled on every side." The man who is earnestly engaged in any cause in this world will have to encounter trials. The old prophets had theirs; some were insulted, some incarcerated, some martyred. So with John the Baptist, and so with the apostles, so with the confessors, reformers, and revivalists.

II. HOWEVER GREAT THE TRIALS ENCOUNTERED, THEY ARE NOT BEYOND BEARING. "Yet not distressed," or straitened; though "perplexed," or bewildered, yet not benighted; though "persecuted," or pursued, yet not "forsaken," or abandoned; though "cast down," or stricken down with a blow, yet not perishing. The true labourer in the cause of Christ, however great his trials, is always supported —

1. By the approbation of his own conscience.

2. By the encouraging results of his own labours.

3. By the sustaining strength of God. "As thy days, so shall thy strength be."

III. THE RIGHT BEARING OF THESE TRIALS SUBSERVES THE GOOD OF SOULS. In the right bearing of these sufferings the sufferer —

1. Reveals the life of Christ to others (ver. 10). Who that has witnessed the true Christian languishing on the bed of suffering and death has not seen the spirit of the life of Christ revealed?

2. Promotes in himself and others the Christian life (ver. 11). "God," says Dean Alford, "exhibits death in the living that He may also exhibit life in the dying."

(D. Thomas, D. D.)

Cast down, but not destroyed
"Sub pondere cresco — I grow under a weight — was the motto on the crest of John Spreull, of Glasgow, who for his defence of religious liberty in the times of Claverhouse was imprisoned on the Bass Rock, in the Frith of Forth. This is the great motto of the worn. Nature is like a huge watch, whose movements are caused by the compression of the mainspring. Only by restraint is life possible. The forms of all living things, from the smallest moss to man himself, are determined by the extent and degree to which the force of life overcomes the dead forces of nature. The simple principle of growth under limitation will account for the shape of every leaf, and the formation of every organ of the human body; for the germination of a seed, and for the beating of the heart within the breast. The blossom of a plant is produced by growth under restraint. At the point farthest away from the root the vital forces are weakest, and the supply of nourishment almost exhausted; and therefore the ordinary leaves are compressed by their diminished power of resistance to the forces to which they are subjected, and modified into the strange shapes and changed into the beautiful colours of the flower. The compression goes on farther in the interior parts of the flower, according as the resisting power becomes less, until at last, in the innermost central part, the forces are brought to an equilibrium, and the plant finds rest in the round seed, which is simply the most complete compression of which the leaves are capable. The head of man is in the same way only a modification of the vertebral column, and his brain a compression of the spinal marrow, by the mechanical conditions under which they are developed. Have you ever watched a bubble of air rising up from the bottom of a clear pond to the top? If so, you cannot fail to have noticed that it ascends not in a straight line, but in a corkscrew or spiral form. The force which draws ii upwards to rejoin the native air from which it has been separated, would do so, if left to itself, by the shortest course; but it encounters continually the resistance of the denser element of the water, and this pressure delays its ascent through it, and makes it take a longer zig-zag path. If you understand the reason of this simple phenomenon, you will understand the way in which every herb and tree grows in the air, and why their shapes are what we see them to be. They all grow in the most varied and complicated spiral forms because they grow under resistance. This is the simple method of nature's working, the law which determines all her forms. The same law obtains throughout the spiritual world. There, too, growth is under resistance. The law of the spirit, of life in Christ Jesus, contends against the law of sin and death; the law in the members wars against the law of the mind. The most essential character of spiritual life is that it depends upon the resistance or contest of one form of moral force by another: its tension is holiness, righteousness, self-control. We grow in grace as the trees grow in space — under limitations; and the various forms and degrees of spiritual life which men exhibit are due to the extent of these limitations. Spiritual life does not assume one stereotyped monotonous pattern. There is the same infinite variety in the spiritual world that there is in the natural, arising from similar causes. As no two plants grow in precisely similar circumstances, so no two human beings are exposed to the same spiritual influences. Of course there can be no growth without life. If the soul has no resisting power within, then the forces of the world without simply destroy it. If the soul is dead, all things deepen its death. But if it has spiritual life, then all things help to maintain and develop it. Like the sailing-boat that tacks to the wind, it takes advantage even of the contrary currents of life to reach its end. We may compare the soul that is dead and the soul that has spiritual life to two seeds, one infertile and the other fertile. The forces of nature play upon both seeds in the same way. In the case of the seed that has no life in it, these forces are unresisted; they have their own way, and they proceed to corrupt or break up the elements of which it is composed, until nothing of it remains. In the case of the seed that is possessed of life, the forces of nature are resisted, and this resistance becomes the source of living action, the very power of growth. The changes which the seed undergoes in germinating under the influence of those forces, duly controlled, form the basis of all the subsequent developments. And like these two seeds are dead and living souls. If the soul is dead it yields helplessly to the corruption that is in the world through lust; if the soul is living, it resists these disintegrating forces of the world, and uses them to increase its spiritual life and to build up its spiritual structure. It is only, therefore, of those who have spiritual life in themselves that it can be said, that though cast down they are not destroyed." To such, justification is a living doctrine — not merely part of a formal creed, nor an intellectual abstraction. Their faith is alive, and can prove its vitality by its energy. And the force of this life is remarkable. This faith can overcome the world. It can rise superior to all its temptations and trials. The force of natural life even in the lowest forms is extraordinary. The soft cellular mushroom has been known to lift up heavy masses of pavement by its expansion beneath them; the tender root of a tree insinuating itself in a crevice of the rock splits it up by its growth. And if life in its feeblest form can do such wonderful things, what may not be expected from spiritual and eternal life? The life that is in Christ Jesus .by mere formality and profession, is like a dead branch that is merely mechanically united to the tree, and which, destitute of the tree's vital sap and force, yields inevitably to the forces of nature, decays, and drops off into dust and ashes. But the life that is in Him by faith is like a living branch that becomes partaker of the whole force of the tree, and grows with its growth, and flourishes with its strength and beauty. "Whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world." It grows strong by opposition; it flourishes in the most adverse circumstances; it uses all the conditions of life for its maintenance; it makes even its hindrances to advance its life-work.

1. What casts us down most of all is the burden of sin. In the unrenewed heart this burden is unfelt. We are unconscious of the enormous pressure of the atmosphere upon us, because our bodies are pervaded with air which counterbalances the superincumbent air. But were the air within us removed, the pressure of the air without would crush us. And so, being sinful ourselves, we are unconscious of the weight of sin. But when the love of sin is taken away, then sin becomes a burden which is too heavy for us. We feel ourselves like Christian in the "Pilgrim's Progress," with his huge bundle upon his back. This pressure of sin has drawn tears from eyes which would have looked unmoved upon the martyrs' fires. Sin is indeed the great adversity, the only thing that is truly hostile to us; and yet, in contending with it, we can use it as a fulcrum to remove the obstacles that lie in the soul's upward path. But though this great adversity be taken away by faith in Christ, other evils are not taken away, for that would be to take away what determines the strength and shape of the spiritual life: that would leave it a weak and powerless thing. The Christian is not exempt from ordinary troubles.

2. In the world he has tribulation; and many are the afflictions of the righteous. In addition to the ordinary trials of all men, he has troubles of his own that are peculiar to the spiritual life. And these are felt most in proportion to the strength and vigour of the spiritual life; only that in his ease what crushes others proves a means of growth, calls forth, exercises, and educates all the powers of his soul, and brings down the powers of the world to come to shape his character and conduct. Sometimes, indeed, the weight is too much. There are many of God's people who are so cast down by their circumstances that they seem almost destroyed. They are like a tuft of grass growing under a stone, The stone does not destroy the grass, nor prevent it from growing, for the vital force is stronger than the mechanical; but it dwarfs and distorts it; it blanches its colour, and it deforms its shape. Thus many lives are prevented from being what they might otherwise have been by the crushing circumstances of life.

3. Poverty often lies like a stone upon them. The sordid care for things that perish in the using seems to dwarf the immortal nature to the level of these things — seems to make the soaring spirit a part of the dull material world. The toil that is needed to support the body leaves little time or inclination for the cultivation of the soul. Though poor in itself it can make many rich. It is when the plant is poorest in material, and most limited in force, that it produces the blossom and the fruit by which the world is adorned with beauty and the generations of living creatures are fed. And so the poverty of the Christian may blossom and fruit for others. How often has this been the case in the history of the world! Few of the world's greatest benefactors have had worldly advantages. The inventions and discoveries that have been of the greatest use to society have been made by persons who had little wealth. It is an axiom in nature that motion takes the direction of least resistance. Poverty, therefore, must be eminently helpful to the growth of the soul, insomuch as it removes many of the hindrances which make it hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. If the aspiration of the soul is heavenward, then a poor man encounters less opposition in that aspiration from his circumstances than one who is rich and increased with goods. He is relieved of that weight of worldliness — of those cares and anxieties which oppress the soul and give it an earthward tendency.

4. Sorrow is the commonest of all pressures that cast down the soul. This experience belongs to no class or condition of life exclusively. It is the great mystery of Providence that there should be such a prodigality of pain — how God can permit such forms of anguish. But the greatness of our sorrow is owing to the greatness of our nature. The highest mountains cast the largest shadows; and so the dark, wide shadows of human experience witness to the original loftiness of our being. Sorrow gives a tragic touch to the meanest personality. God has ordered that sorrow should be the most powerful factor in the education of our race. In the histories of the patriarchs and saints we see how suffering, deep and long-continued, ministered to a noble development. We see the baser earthy element in them crystallised into the purity and transparency of heaven through the fires of pain and sorrow. Many of the weights that press down the Christian life are visible and palpable. But as the palm-tree is pressed on every side by the viewless air, as it is exposed to the resistance of forces which the eye cannot see nor the hand feel, so the heaviest weights which drag down the Christian life are often invisible. Its crosses cannot be displayed. Many of its troubles are of a spiritual nature. It is east down, not by circumstances, but by the state of the soul. And these spiritual sorrows are the evidences of the reality of the work of grace; for where there is the principle of life there must be the changes of life. The form of godliness is a dead, invariable thing; whereas the power of godliness has its winter, its summer, and its autumn states. Sorrow arises in the case of most believers from inability to realise the ideal, to reach the mark of attainment they have set themselves. They have sorrow because of the remembrance of past sins and shortcomings. They have sorrow because of the sins of the world. All this is the godly sorrow that worketh repentance unto life. In this winter state the spiritual life is collecting and concentrating itself for renewed effort when the spring of revival is come. It waits upon the Lord, and so renews its strength. No life can grow or support itself in the void by its spontaneous buoyancy. All life upholds itself in the air by continuous effort. The humblest life is s vortex of unceasing forces. Much more is this the case in regard to the highest life of the soul, the life that is breathed into us by God's Spirit and formed by faith in Christ Jesus. It has ever to do an uphill work. It has to grow against the gravitation of sin. But this resistance is meant to bring out all that is best in us, to stimulate our most strenuous exertions, to cultivate our patience, to educate our faith and hope, to mould us after the Divine pattern. It is the weight of the architrave upon the pillar that gives it stability and endurance; and it is the fightings without and the fears within that give strength to the character and perseverance to the life. What a beauty and grace does the spiritual life take from the pressure of the light afflictions that are but for a moment and that work out for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory! The thorny sorrow that springs from the grave of some dead love or hope forms the richest adornment of life. Not only is the outward form of the Christian life moulded into shapes of moral beauty — into whatsoever things are pure, and honest, and lovely, and of good report — but its inner substance is also made more lovely by the pressure of external shocks and internal sufferings. It is not the tree that grows in a rich soil and in a sheltered situation that produces the richly grained wood which is selected to adorn our finest furniture; but the tree that is exposed in its bleak, shelterless situation to every storm of heaven. The wild forces that beat upon it, and which it successfully overcomes, develop in it the beautiful veins and markings which are so highly prized by man. And so it is not when growing up in luxurious ease and comfort that we produce the gifts and graces which enrich and ennoble the Christian life. The natures that have the richest variety and the greatest interest are ever those which have grown under pressure of suffering, and by a vital faith have overcome the world. The Apostle Paul is an illustrious example of the law in question. His growth in grace was indeed under pressure of the most trying outward circumstances, and yet what a marvellous fulness and variety of form did it display! No man was more many-sided in his Christian attainments. We are not at the mercy of the thousand contingencies of life. The troubles that come to us are not accidents. Divine wisdom is shaping all our ends.

(H. Macmillan, D. D.)

I. CRUSHED, but not penned in a corner. The idea is that of being jostled in a crowd (Mark 3:9). They are hard pressed for space, but not driven into hopeless straits.

II. IN DIFFICULTIES as to the ways and means of carrying on their ministry effectually, but not reduced to utter helplessness.

III. PERSECUTED, but not left in the enemies' hands — not given over to the persecutors.

IV. THROWN TO THE GROUND, but not destroyed. The notion is the pursuit of a fugitive in war, who, when overtaken and thrown down, is usually slain. Here was the overthrow, but, by God's grace, not the slaughter.

(Archdeacon Evans.)

The mystery of evil has many aspects. There is one that is contained in that sad word "waste." The germs of life that wither before they are sprung up, the lives often so full of power and promise that we see cut off in their prime, the gifted minds that are sunk in unconsciousness or madness. But there is another consideration that is still more practical, and that comes home to all men individually. How much that was born with each one of us must pass unused and undeveloped into the grave! The profession on which a young man has set his heart may be really the one best suited to him, and if he might enter on the preparation for it with his enthusiasm, his success might be morally certain, and the natural growth of character assured. But other wills have to be consulted beside his own; there are money difficulties which are thought to be insurmountable, or there is a fear of some loss of caste, or of some problematical moral consequences which are apprehended. And so the first flush of hope and resolution is checked by an untimely frost, and the leading sapling is nipped. Will the tree grow straight afterwards? That is the question. Or the life of the affections has been in some way warped or stunted. Some early disappointment, the discovery of some unknown defect for which no one living is to blame, some hardly avoidable error, makes us conscious of failure and limitation here, where the longing for the infinite is most insatiable. From this point onwards what is the life to be? These are marked instances of what we all find out at some point in our course — that feeling and energy have to be adapted to circumstance; that while desires and aims may be boundless, opportunity and time and human power are limited. And it is here that the difference becomes apparent between the true and false resolution and enthusiasm. We have attempted the impossible. The possible remains. But does there remain in us the strength and will to do it? Disappointment will have a weakening effect for a while, but it will only be for a while if we have any strength in us. The effect is various. The more speculative and dreamy temper discovers that the world is out of joint, and begins spinning theories of a new and regenerate condition of society, in which every nature shall grow without painful effort into the fulness of its ideal form. The more practical lose sight of their ideal altogether, and fall into a narrow, dull routine. The bolder nature becomes cynically embittered, the softer loses heart and subsides in caution and timidity. These are the subterfuges of weakness, and we must arise and shake ourselves from these if we would be spiritually healthy and strong. Suppose, then, the discovery to have been made, that of many plans only the one that seemed the least interesting can be pursued; that of many powers of which we have been conscious, only some of the more ordinary can find their natural fulfilment; that of all to which our hearts once clung, all but some poor fragment has been taken out of reach. Imagine the great soldier, struck down in middle life and doomed to drag out the rest of his time in feebleness and inaction. What then remains for us? If we are true to ourselves, perhaps the most fruitful portion of our lives. It is true that the desire granted is a tree of life, that there are some kinds of growth which can only come through the intensity or the continuance of joy. But it is also true that still deeper sources of life and growth are opened in times of sorrow and gloom for those who have recourse to them aright. Let us return to Him who, by the finger of His providence, has shown us the limits of our appointed way. Let us devote ourselves anew to do and suffer according to His will, and we shall find springing by the strait and narrow road many an unlooked-for blessing. If love and truth, humility and deep contentment be there, if the finite being is rooted in the infinite, there will be enlargement even in the least hopeful lot. The gifts that, with concurrent circumstances, might have adorned the literature of a nation, or made a lasting name in painting, or music, or some other path of art, may be concentrated on the training of one or two children, so laying up a store of usefulness for the coming time. The same energy which in some lives is seen breaking forth victoriously in all the brilliance of success has wrought not less heroically in others, underground, as it were, unsuspected and unseen except by very few, in a struggle with adverse fortune or adverse health. Viewed "under the form of eternity," the one life is no less complete and no less successful than the other. Both pass into the hidden world with equal gain. If there be the fixed determination to do what the hand findeth to do, even though it may seem poor and mean, to do it trusting in the eternal strength and wisdom of Him who ordereth all things according to the good pleasure of His will, we need not fear that any experience, any aspiration, any love, any effort of our past lives will be utterly lost to us. To act in the present is not necessarily to break with the past. We learn to take up mangled matters at the best. We perhaps find out a way of turning to account even the accidents of life, and weaving them into the fabric of our design. Nor is experience, whether of success or failure, ever profitable for ourselves alone. The narrowest and most deserted life need not be lived wholly in isolation. If failure and sorrow have left the heart still fresh and sweet, as it will be if it have clang to a Divine support, then, wherever there are human beings, a way will be found of pouring the oil of consolation and the wine of gladness into other lives. There is so much that wants doing in the world, so few hitherto who have been roused to do even what they eaR. It is terrible to think that we may miss doing the little that is laid to our hands. Let us not waste time in vain regrets, or in vague dreams of what experience has clearly shown to be impossible, but let us gather up the fragments that remain. Though sometimes we may be cast down, let us know that we are not destroyed.

(Prof. Lewis Campbell.)

Scientific Illustrations and Symbols.
Many kinds of seeds are gifted with powers not merely of retaining life under the ordinary circumstances of nature, but of resisting the most terrible attacks. When wine has been made from raisins, and the refuse has been scattered over the fields as manure, it has been observed that the grape-seeds have vegetated and produced young vines, and this notwithstanding the boiling and fermentation they have had to endure. The seeds of elder-berries have been observed to grow after similar trials. Many experiments have been made to ascertain exactly what amount of unnatural heat seeds can bear without being destroyed. It considerably exceeds that which plants can bear; and the same is the case with extreme cold.

(Scientific Illustrations and Symbols.)

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