strengthening the souls of the disciples and encouraging them to continue in the faith. "We must endure many hardships to enter the kingdom of God," they said.
I. CONFIRMATION OF FAITH. Continue in the faith - both objective and subjective; not a creed alone, if that was given at all, but the real root or spiritual life. Faith was discipleship.
II. CONFIRMATION IN THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE CHURCH. "Ordained [or, 'appointed'] them elders in every Church." A settled ministry; an orderly maintenance of worship. Preparation for work in the neighborhood.
III. CONFIRMATION OF HOPE. The kingdom in view. Work towards the future. Tribulation prepares for higher life. - R.
We must through much tribulation enter the kingdom of God.I. The disciples had been but newly converted to the faith, and THEY REQUIRED TO BE ESTABLISHED THROUGH GRACE. They were very likely to have been discouraged by the sufferings of the apostles, their instructors in the faith. They may have begun to fear that they had not counted the cost of religion: they had looked on the bright side of their profession; they had glowed with the zeal of new converts to Christ. But they might now have begun, for the first time, to discover that religion has its dark side. It is altogether probable that they had found it easier to make resolutions than to keep them; and to be exalted in hope more practicable than to be weaned from the world. We see, then, at once the bent and the need of the soul; its bent, to fall back, after the fairest professions of religion; its need, to be daily strengthened and advanced in the saving gifts of Divine grace. The seed may be withered by the early blight — the slender flame may be extinguished by the rising blast. Watchfulness must be added to knowledge, and prayer to watchfulness; and the seat of religion must be not in the imagination nor the affections merely — not in the understanding even, as separate from the heart, but in the soul.
II. The apostle, in the text, "exhorted them TO CONTINUE IN THE FAITH." The source of all final perseverance in religion is doubtless the grace of God. The means by which that grace operates on the heart is by a "continuance in the faith." The apostles Barnabas and Paul, we must suppose, on this occasion opened to their new converts the whole foundation of Christian belief — the whole body of Christian motives, and a corresponding practice. To the Jews amongst them they appealed from their own Scriptures, and showed the prophecies that had gone before: respecting Jesus and His great salvation. To the Gentiles they preached, no doubt in kindred strains, Jesus and the resurrection, Christ and Him crucified. Here was, no doubt, a faith, which both admitted and required, and would reward, inquiry. The more they reflected upon the great truths of the gospel, the more they observed the state of the world around them, the more they would hail the glad tidings of the gospel. It was a revelation of truth, a communication of strength, from God to men. It embraced that which was most suitable to their wants, and most agreeable to their hopes. It promised, on the most sure grounds, pardon of sin, peace with God, renovation of the heart. This is, then, the faith in which still we exhort you to continue. It is that which we invite you to gain, and then to hold fast even to the end. It is no single effort of the understanding embracing these Divine truths, no words of confession. It must be a deliberate consideration of the grounds on which your faith is built, and all your hopes depend. It must be a comparison of the feelings of the heart with the standard of Divine truth. It must be an application of the great truths of Scripture to all the circumstances and relations of life. It must be a daily viewing of things through the glass of God's Word, and a reference of all events to the future and eternal world.
III. We are warned that the walk of faith will not be altogether a thornless path — the triumph of faith not a bloodless victory; "and that we must THROUGH MUCH TRIBULATION ENTER INTO THE KINGDOM OF GOD." The words are introduced in the text with an abruptness in the language, which shows the strong impression on the mind of the apostle delivering them, of their nature and truth. Each apostle was ever anxious assuredly to impress on the minds of his converts, no less than on his own, the costs, as well as the gains, of religion. It may be doubtless necessary that outward afflictions should first bring home the wandering sinner to God. His past life may have been conversant with companions who must be forsaken, and habits to be renounced. He will, at all events, find himself placed in a world that will little understand the principles on which he is acting, and that may deride the faith which he professes, or the purity which he exhibits. Nor can he feel otherwise than painfully affected at the sight of wickedness around him.
(C. J. Hoare, M. A.)
(W. Arnot, D. D.)
(T. Starr King.)angustiae," narrowness of space." It is then through many of these gallings, these narrow inlets, or pressing burdens, that our way must be made to the land of rest. Let us trace the fact —
I. IN ITS RISE. First of all, strait is the gate itself that leadeth unto life. Through one mental process in the main do men enter into the life of the Spirit. And though that life issues in the best expansion of the whole man, yet this introductory process is eminently a contracting one. When a man for the first time opens his eyes on God's true state, and his own; when he first sees what God demands of him, and what he has to render to God, the sight is one which shrinks up whatever he may before have thought of anything that is his own; it is a tribulation, a passing through a strait, too narrow for any of those encumbrances which lay about and almost constituted his unrenewed and worldly being. This lies at the very head of his course, and cannot be avoided. Many endeavour to avoid it; and no doubt it is easy enough: but in doing so, they miss the way to the kingdom of God. They stand with the strait gate before them, looking up the narrow path. Between it and the broad way are several tracks, not so difficult, and better frequented; decoys which the enemy has constructed — the ways which seem right unto a man, but the end thereof is the way of death.
1. There is the comely track of formalism — spanning the valleys of humiliation with its perfect arches, piercing the toilsome steeps with its readier and smoother approaches. There, is no tribulation; daily, conscience is set to sleep with choicest music; daily, the satisfied eyes gaze on the fair pictures of self-denial and piety.
2. Then there is the wide and smooth path of worldly profession, where all that is rough and unpleasing in religion is avoided and cast aside. Tribulation enough there is indeed in such a course, but not of the right sort for our purpose; forever and anon the rough unmannerly protest of God's inward witness breaks through, and in laughter the heart is sorrowful. And tribulation enough to come: for the hope of such an one shall perish.
II. IN ITS NATURE, it is two fold, essential and incidental; that which every Christian must feel, and that into which he is liable, from varying circumstances, to be thrown.
1. He is guilty; unworthy; grieves God's Holy Spirit; does the evil thing he has resolved against, and the good which he has determined to do falls unwrought from his hands. And from this springs grief and trouble continually. Nor does such necessary trouble come from self-contemplation only. "Rivers of water," said the psalmist, "run down mine eyes, because men keep not Thy law." And then "everyone that will live godly in Christ Jesus must suffer persecution." The world will not endure tranquilly one who lives above the world. "If they have hated Me, they will hate you."
2. This last-mentioned tribulation seems, from its varying aspect, to form our transition to those which are incidental: not necessary to every child of God, but sent to some in full measure, to some in less degree, and to others perhaps hardly at all; providential chastenings of our heavenly Father, the sicknesses, dejections, and bereavements of the people of God. These troubles are in fact our highest privileges. To be allowed to enter into the fellowship of Christ's sufferings — do we not ever feel this to be our truest exaltation in life?
III. ITS PROGRESS. "Tribulation worketh patience." Oh blessed advance! from suffering, to "Father, if it be Thy will"; from patience to "approval" — the passing through and coming out of the fire tested and fit for the Master's use. Would you have a counsellor in the things of God? Take a Christian who has known sorrow. Would you have a comforter and a Christian friend? Consort with one who has known sorrow. Wouldst thou thyself become mature in Christ, a ripened and ready Christian, glorifying Him largely, and bearing witness to Him with power? Oh refuse not, pass not by, the cup of tribulation; learn obedience from the things which thou hast suffered; be thou, as He was, made perfect through sufferings. But this is not all. And now in the end, let us look onward and upward. Let us stand with the beloved apostle, and behold that great multitude. "These are they which came out of great tribulation!"
(Dean Alford.)I. TRIBULATION. You may think something more consolatory might have been looked for from Barnabas than "much tribulation," but we recognise the voice of "the son of consolation," when those sorrows are represented as preparing us for heaven. But we must take care not to misapply his words.
1. Though the kingdom is to be entered through "much tribulation," there may be "much tribulation" which does not lead to the kingdom. Admitting that all suffering is the consequence of sin, yet what man endures now is at most but a temporal punishment. There is no expiatory power in our sufferings. You are not to think that because "many are the troubles of the righteous," that everyone who has many troubles must therefore be righteous.
2. There is, however, a different, though equally erroneous inference, which may be drawn from our text. When a man, whose course of life on the whole is one of evenness, reads of entering the kingdom through much tribulation, there is great likelihood of his suspecting that he is destitute of the chief evidence of being a child of God. If the greatness of trouble distress and harass one Christian, the very want of trouble may be a trial to another. But —(1) Life is not finished yet; there may remain time enough for many calamities. It does not take long to darken the brightest sky, when God has once commanded the clouds from above.(2) May it not be that the want of trial is thy trial; unbroken sunshine may be a trial as well as continued strife.(3) The "much tribulation" is not made up exclusively of what the world counts distress. It consists generally in conflicts with our own evil hearts; in the grief occasioned by our sin; in the sorrow of finding the Divine image so faintly traced — the power of corruption still so strong — the will so biassed — the effections so depraved. And have you nothing of this?(4) And then the tribulation of the text arose mainly from persecution. But has the trial of the Cross ceased? Is there no longer any "persecution for righteousness' sake"? The world must dislike genuine piety as that by which it is condemned; and it ought to make us doubt whether our piety be genuine if it do not cause a clash between the world and ourselves. Have you been faithful in reproving sin? Have you drawn a line with due breadth and distinctness between the world and yourself? No wonder that the world does not persecute you, when you do not openly separate from the world!
II. ITS NECESSITY AND ISSUE. The text describes affliction as the ordinary instrument through which God fits His people for their glorious inheritance. God thereby disciplines His people; detaches them from earthly things; refines their affections. It is in the furnace of trial that He burns out of us the impurities of indwelling corruption. For whatever tends to increase present holiness, tends equally to increase future happiness. Not, indeed, that the tribulation is indispensable. God, if He pleased, could make us ready for the kingdom through some other process; but the "much tribulation" is His ordinary course. I understand from this what St. Paul means when he says, "We glory in tribulations." He found tribulation grievous in itself, but he gloried in it as a preparation for heaven. Of what avail would it be, that the palace should be prepared for the inhabitant, unless the inhabitant be prepared for the palace.
(H. Melvill, B. D.)I. THE DECLARATION that the people of God must through tribulation enter the kingdom of God.
1. That they are an afflicted people there can be no doubt. And not only so, but those whom God blesses the most He afflicts the most. Take, e.g., Abraham, Jacob, Job, Moses, Paul, etc. But not only these, all the saints must expect it. The Word tells us not, "we may" but "we must." Sometimes we forget that it is God's appointment, that it cannot be otherwise.
2. Many reasons might be given for this.(1) That we may know and feel what that body of sin and death is that is within us; and it is no small blessing to have a thief that is in the heart detected.(2) That we may know the value of Christ, as the brother born for adversity. We are most of us like children on board a vessel when a storm comes, we think of nothing but the storm. The life of faith looks to Him who is the pilot.(3) The great secret of all this living in much tribulation is, that we may live out of ourselves and to God. The Word of God is full of promises; and we never find their worth but as we are placed in circumstances that make them needful. We need not ask a hungry man to eat if the bread is placed before him.
II. THE EXHORTATION. "Exhorting them to continue in the faith." The great remedy for this much affliction is, not to be looking at the affliction; it is to continue in the faith. Whether we regard faith as the doctrine of Christ, or as continuing in faith, living not to ourselves, but to God — in either point of view it comes to the same truth; it is the life of faith. Happy is the man who, the more the waters come upon him, the higher he rises. We can honour Christ in nothing more than in the life of faith.
III. THE PROSPECT. We sometimes read of a Chinese taking a traveller through a wilderness, and then bringing him at once into a beautiful garden. He passes over craggy rocks, through brambles and nettles, and everything offensive; and then in one moment his guide brings him into the most lovely exhibition of the powers of nature and art. Just so is it with God: He takes us through a world of brambles into a garden of Eden, and if we have more foretaste of it we should think of it more. If a man eats grapes, he cannot avoid being reminded that there is a place where grapes come from. The way to be living above the troubles of life is to be much in the anticipation of glory: for as surely as the earnest is given, so surely shall the eternal reality be enjoyed. The great principle is to be looking forward to future glory. But we want more than this; we want a present Christ and if we are living by faith we shall possess this. God wants our hearts for Himself.
(J. H. Evans, M. A.)
Essex Congregational Remembrancer.I. THE ROAD TO THE KINGDOM OF GOD. The text does not mean that all who are the subjects of suffering shall be the inheritors of glory. So far is the one from securing the other, that unless suffering is improved, the trials of this life will only add to the guilt and misery of eternity. What is meant is that tribulation is found a means of sanctifying the family of God, and that it is a means so extensively employed and blessed for that purpose that it may with propriety be represented as the road to the kingdom of God.
II. THE TRAVELLERS — The disciples. There are many who walk in the paths of suffering who are not Christ's disciples; but the path now in view is the path of holy suffering: Jesus Christ Himself travelled this road. The best friends of God, in every age of time, have travelled it. The prophets (James 5:10). The apostles (1 Corinthians 4:9-13). Let, then, the traveller on this road know, not only that God's best friends have preceded him, and that many will follow Him; but let him also know that he forms a part of a large and goodly fellowship (1 Peter 5:9).
III. THE NECESSITY FOR THEIR TRAVELLING BY THIS ROAD. As men we are fallen sinful creatures, and therefore we must meet with punishment, and as Christians we are imperfect creatures, and therefore we must meet with discipline.
IV. ITS TERMINATION. It conducts to God's heavenly kingdom. The world receives a very different treatment from the master it serves, from that which Christians receive at the hands of Jesus Christ. The prince of this world promises his servants a happiness in this life, which he can never afford; but is either altogether silent about the end of their course, or deceives them with the expectation of a felicity which they will never attain. Christ predicts tribulation; but then He more than counterbalances the tribulation by the present joys of religion; while He promises glory at the end of their course. In the kingdom of God there will be no more tribulation. Sin, which is the grand scourge of man, will obtain no admittance there; consequently sorrow, which is the inseparable companion of sin, shall be equally excluded (Revelation 21:4; Psalm 16:11). In the kingdom of God the tribulations of this life will increase the happiness of the former sufferer (Hebrews 12:10, 11; Revelation 7:14-17).
(Essex Congregational Remembrancer.)I. ITS TRAVELLERS: all true Christians; "we"; therefore do not wonder at it.
II. ITS NECESSITY. "We must"; therefore do not shun it.
III. ITS NATURE: rugged and long; "through much tribulation," therefore prepare for it.
IV. ITS END: blessedness; "the kingdom of God"; therefore do not neglect it.
1. "The kingdom of God," in its widest sense, denotes the Church, under all its forms and dispensations. In New Testament usage, the reference of the phrase is to Messiah's kingdom. Either in its initial and visible state here, or in its perfected condition in a future life. The latter is its meaning here. We who are in the kingdom in its incipiency here, "must through much tribulation enter into" the perfection of the same kingdom hereafter.
2. In this way heaven and earth do not lie far asunder. The one grows out of the other. Heaven is the summer of the year of which we have in this world the wintry beginning. And from the first there is a looking springwards, and even a touch of summer in the soul that is panting towards it. Even physically there is no vacuum between this lower and the higher world, while, morally, there stretches between them "a new and living way," by which all the faithful are going up to heaven, yet carrying something of heaven with them as they go. The toilsome journey through this world of peril and sin is not merely the passing of so much time until the dawning of the day; it is an express progress by the right way to the city of habitation.
3. Entertain the thought that going through earthly tribulations is entering in. It is not that we must pass through all the straits and pressures of this life, and then the entrance will be given according to the dictate of an arbitrary will. If we "continue in the faith," the entrance is accomplished: death then is but a servitor to open the gate: the grave is but a side room where we leave a vestment which will not be needed for a while, and which meantime will be changed into a glorious robe fit for immortal wear.
4. Think for a little of this unalterable, yet very gracious necessity of this lifelong "must." For this is not a truth that comes to us naturally. Look, for instance, at a palace or a gentleman's estate. They are talked of far and near for their beauty. Suppose one sets out for the purpose of seeing them, what will he expect to see when he comes near? Rough roads, neglected fields, thorns and briars up to the very gate and doors? No. That being the focus and centre of all, it "must" have meet setting. Well, God is taking His children to a kingdom! to a "house" with "many mansions," and our natural thought would be that as soon as they turn face heavenwards, there will be, not only a great inward, but also a great outward change. There will, now, be something of the bloom of the garden on everything; and as they go on, the way will become more pleasant, obstructions in it fewer, and more easily over come. But against that theory of life lies this text. Of course there are many exceptions. Multitudes of infants go to the perfect kingdom of God almost as soon as they are born. Also, there are great "varieties" of experience among those who live. The principle is not one of mechanical exactness. Nor are we to conclude that tribulation is measured out according to character — much of it to the sinful, and less to the pure. In some instances the reverse of this is the truth — the finest gold sometimes lies molten in the hottest fires. "We must" —
I. FOR PROBATION. A man must be proved before he can be approved. A thing — or still more, a man — may look fair, and be useless. In mercantile and public life, men are advanced from lower to higher place only after successful probation. God tries and trains men, before, and for, advancement. The advancement is to be very great: the trial must be very true. And in order to be true it must be severe and searching.
II. FOR PURIFICATION God's fires are hot, but they are purifying. He Himself is "a consuming fire" only to what is evil: He is a purifying and preserving fire to all that is good. But is not all tribulation punitive? No. It is not possible to trace all suffering up to sin in the suffering person. Broken laws bring down their penalties; and is so far as tribulation consists of penalty, of course it is punitive. But many a sufferer, in his little human measure, "bears the sins" of others. If in the sufferer there be faith, all that is punitive is yet so assuaged and filled with grace that it is purifying far more than punitive. Thus proving, and purifying, run on together to the very end, when the death fire will burn out the last dregs of corruption, and perfect the life-process of conformity to the image of Christ.
III. IN ORDER TO THE ATTAINMENT OF A REAL AND DEEP FELLOWSHIP WITH CHRIST. Christian fellowship is life in Christ. All that life is, or contains of good, of growth by grace to glory, is "in Him." We have joy in Him; "That My joy might remain in you." We have peace in Him; "My peace I give unto you." And strength, the "strength" that "is made perfect in weakness." And should, then, the trouble of life be excluded? No. It is the unchanging law that we "bear about with us in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus." This is "the fellowship of His sufferings" from which in due time fellowship in glory will arise.
IV. FOR THE SAKE OF OTHERS. God often uses the suffering of one for the sanctifying of another. Here is a house through which a spirit of worldliness would soon flow; but up in the top room is a little sufferer from whose bed every day flows out another spirit which keeps the house in dewy softness. Or, one in maturer life, and, in so far as man can judge, ripe for the better state, is kept lingering here, a living lesson of patience and gentleness, a living proof to many of the all-sufficiency of the grace of Christ. As "no man liveth," as "no man dieth," so no man suffereth to himself.
(A. Raleigh, D. D.)1. Have I lost my goods, and foregone a fair estate? Had all the earth been mine, what is it to heaven? Had I been the lord of all the world, what were this to a kingdom of glory?
2. Have I parted with a dear consort — the sweet companion of my youth; the tender nurse of my age; the partner of my sorrows for many years? She is but stepped a little before me to that happy rest, which I am punting towards, and wherein I shall speedily overtake her. In the meantime and ever, my soul is espoused to that glorious and immortal husband, from whom it shall never be parted.
3. Am I bereaved of some of my dear children, the sweet pledges of our matrimonial love, whose parts and hopes promised me comfort in my declined age? Why am I not rather thankful it hath pleased my God out of my loins to furnish heaven with some happy guests? Why do I not, instead of mourning for their loss, sing praises to God for preferring them to that eternal blessedness?
4. Am I afflicted with bodily pain and sickness, which banishes all sleep from my eyes, and exercises me with lingering torture? Ere long this momentary distemper shall end in an everlasting rest.
5. Am I threatened by the sword of an enemy? Suppose that man to be one of the guardians of paradise, and that sword as flaming as it is sharp, that one stroke should let me into that place of inconceivable pleasure, and admit me to feed on the tree of life forever. Cheer up, then, oh my soul: and upon thy fixed apprehension of the glory to be revealed, even in the midnight of thy sorrows, and in the deepest darkness of death itself, sing then to thy God songs of confidence, of joy, of praise and thanksgiving.
I. IF WE ARE TO GAIN THE HIGH PLACES OF HEAVEN WE MUST EXPECT OBSTACLES IN OUR WAY.
1. But the true Christian will not be driven back by difficulties. Diogenes wished to become the pupil of a famous cynic philosopher, and was refused. Still Diogenes persisted, and the philosopher raised his staff to smite him. "Strike," said Diogenes, "you will not find a staff hard enough to conquer my perseverance." And so he had his wish. Let no blows be hard enough to drive us back from the kingdom of heaven.
2. For us all there is the Hill Difficulty to be climbed, and the Valley of Humiliation to be entered. We are proud of our schemes, and God sweeps them all away like a cobweb. We trust to our own righteousness, and God allows us to fall into a terrible temptation, like David. We thought, like St. Peter, that we could stand, and, behold, we have fallen. We trusted in our own strength, like Samson, and the Philistines, our sins, have bound us hand and foot in the prison.
3. Sometimes the difficulty lies right across our path like a rock, or like a baud of armed men. Once in battle an Austrian general was surrounded on all sides by the enemy. He sent a message to his commander asking whither he should retreat. And the answer came back in one word — "Forward!" That is the watchword of every true Christian man.
II. THE GREATEST OBSTACLES IN OUR PATH TO HEAVEN ARE —
1. The world which hinders us on our heavenly journey in the form of bad company. Many a pilgrim has lost his way by forming godless or careless acquaintances.
2. The flesh. Who has not the desire to go forward in the path of duty, and yet suffered himself to listen to the whisper, "A little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep"? Who has not found the bad thought, hated and unwelcome, yet forcing itself upon him at the holiest seasons? Well, if we are to continue our journey to heaven we must be masters of our flesh. It is better for us to enter into life maimed or blind, than to have two eyes, all that we desire or wish for, at the cost of our own soul.
3. The devil. Sometimes he comes as a roaring lion, openly attacking us; sometimes he comes as an angel of light, whispering soft, tempting promises in our ears.
III. THE WAY TO MEET THESE DIFFICULTIES.
1. Do not think too much of them beforehand; meet them bravely when they come, but do not meet them half way. When a man builds a house he does not stay to think what a long task it is; he just goes on day by day adding brick to brick, till the whole is finished. Let us day by day try to do our duty, to build up a little bit of a holy life, and the difficulties and obstacles will be overcome.
2. Then we must trust ourselves to our Guide. If you were to try to climb some of the Swiss mountains you would come to places where it would be impossible for you to proceed alone. Then your guide would bid you to trust entirely to him, to allow yourself to be bound to him, and to have no fear. In all the difficulties and dangers of our pilgrimage we must trust ourselves entirely to the Lord Jesus Christ.
(H. J. Wilmot Buxton, M. A.)I. THE UNIVERSALITY OF TRIBULATION. No one who has thoroughly observed the conditions of life can avoid coming to this conclusion, that suffering forms a large portion of human history. Youth encounters troubles; then, as life advances, there are deeper sorrows. And as we get older still, life assumes the character of a struggle, and ofttimes in the very midst of it, "man goeth to his long home." Not that this constitutes the whole of life; but we do live in a world whose Creator appears to have consulted something else besides the happiness of His creatures.
II. THE REASON FOR THIS.
1. If we were to discover, say some plant, so widely distributed that we could not go into any one region of the globe without beholding it, our reason would at once compel us to the conclusion, that its universal existence proves some universal purpose, and that its secret must sooner or later be discoverable. Sorrow is universal, and there must therefore be a reason for its being universal. Paul says in our text, "we must"; "it is the order of things, that through much tribulation we enter the kingdom of God." Wherever he went he found trouble; and he found everywhere necessity for the same line of argument; he had to "confirm," that is, to strengthen the souls of the disciples; to exhort them to continue steadfast in the belief of Christianity as a message of glad tidings, notwithstanding all their present trials.
2. But does the kingdom of God here mean heaven? Not exclusively. It means the government of God. The kingdom of God means the government of God; and "tribulation" is derived from the Latin tribulum, the threshing instrument or roller by which the Romans separated the corn from the husks.
3. Tribulation looked at in this light is capable of the most extended application. We may apply it to youth, at its very entrance upon the real discipline of life; to some thoughtful mind, harassed with doubts; to the active, hearty, energetic man of business, who may in this day of unnatural competition be tempted to practical falsehoods, to neglect the soul for the body; to the man of fixed income, whose family cares are a perpetual embarrassment.
III. WHAT IS MEANT BY THE KINGDOM OF GOD AND HOW DOES TRIBULATION FACILITATE OUR ENTRANCE INTO IT? The kingdom of God is not meat and drink, but —
1. "Righteousness," and righteousness is only attainable by tribulation. It is not easy to be good.
2. "Peace": and this is another happy result of tribulation. By nature we do not love peace. You have seen the horse broken in for man's use. Now peace, the very opposite of all this discontent, only comes through the discipline of tribulation.
3. "Joy in the Holy Ghost." But this in the present life only comes through the tribulation of penitence; and the happy throng above have come out of great tribulation.
(W. G. Barrett.)
Homilist.We have here —
I. THE DESIGNATION OF HEAVEN — the kingdom of God. A kingdom has its king, its laws, its social relationships. It conveys the idea of locality and grandeur. It is both a place and a state.
II. THE PARTICULAR CHARACTERISTIC OF HEAVEN. It is the kingdom of God. It will therefore be inconceivably great, inconceivably holy, inconceivably blessed and happy.
III. THE DIFFICULTY OF ADMISSION. To get there we must pass through much tribulation. No man gained heaven without difficulty. He must be tried and purified as in a furnace. He must endure the assaults of Satan. He must overcome his natural evil nature. He must struggle with unbelief, persecution, pain. But he shall enter in and obtain joy and gladness, Sorrow and sighing shall flee away.
(Homilist.)Sub pondere cresco ("I grow under a weight"). On the crest was a palm tree, with weights depending from its fronds. In spite of the weights the tree was straight as an arrow, lifting its crown of graceful foliage high up in the serene air. It is well known that the palm grows best loaded down with weights. Thus this martyr testified that he, like the beautiful tree of the Orient, grew best in his spiritual life under weights. This is the universal law of spiritual growth. There must be resistance, struggle, conflict, or there can be no development of strength. We are inclined to pity those whose lives are scenes of toil and hardship, but God's angels do not pity them if only they are victorious; for in their overcoming they are climbing daily upward towards the holy heights of sainthood. The beatitudes in the Apocalypse are all for overcomers. Heaven's rewards and crowns lie beyond battle plains. Spiritual life always need opposition. It flourishes most luxuriantly in adverse circumstances. We grow best under weights. We find our richest blessings in the burdens we dread to take up.
(J. R. Miller, D. D.)
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