And you have forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons: "My son, do not make light of the Lord's discipline, or lose heart when He rebukes you.
I. ITS CHARACTER. Three words are used to express it - "rebuke," "chastening," "scourging." The last two seem to be used synonymously here. Archbishop Trench points out that "'to rebuke" and "to chasten" are often found together, but they are very capable of being distinguished. "To rebuke" is so to rebuke that the person is brought to the acknowledgment of his fault - is convinced, as David was when rebuked by Nathan (2 Samuel 12:13)." The word translated to "chasten," "being in classical Greek to instruct, to educate, is in sacred Greek to instruct or educate by means of correction, through the severe discipline of love." The object of the discipline is to deliver the subjects of it from sin, to establish them in the faith, and to perfect them in holiness. The means of the discipline are afflictions, persecutions, and trials. And it may be administered by the enemies of the Church of Christ. The persecutions of man may be the discipline of God. "Persecution for religion is sometimes a correction and rebuke for the sins of professors of religion. Men persecute them because they are religious; God chastises them because they are not more so: men persecute them because they wilt not give up their profession; God chastises them because they have not lived up to their profession."
II. ITS AUTHOR. "The chastening of the Lord .... Whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth." Some of our trials are from his hand. He is the great Husbandman, and he prunes the vines that they may bring forth more fruit. The trials which are not sent by him are permitted by him (cf. Job 1:12; Job 2:6; 2 Corinthians 12:7). And he gives to all our trials their disciplinary character. He makes the bitter potion medicinal. By his blessing our sufferings become salutary, and our sorest afflictions our sagest instructors. The fact that the Lord is the Author of our discipline, that our trials either proceed from him or are permitted and regulated by him, supplies a guarantee that we shall not be tried beyond our strength. He is infinite in wisdom and in love. "He knoweth our frame;" and he will either restrict our trials so that they exceed not our strength, or increase our strength until it surpasses the severity of our trials. "He stayeth his rough wind in the day of the east wind." "I will correct thee in measure." "Though he cause grief, yet will he have compassion according to the multitude of his mercies." "My grace is sufficient for thee; for my strength is made perfect in weakness."
III. ITS SUBJECTS. "Whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth."
1. They are filially related to him. "Every son" of his he subjects to reproof and chastisement. "God has one Son without sin, but none without suffering." If we are his sons, we may rest assured that he will not fail to secure to us the discipline that we need. Thus our sufferings may be an evidence of our sonship.
2. They are beloved by him. "Whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth." Because he loves us he corrects us. It has been well said, that "lawns which we would keep in the best condition are very frequently mown; the grass has scarcely any respite from the scythe. Out in the meadows there is no such repeated cutting; they are mown but once or twice in the year. Even thus the nearer we are to God, and the more regard he has for us, the more frequent will be our adversities. To be very dear to God involves no small degree of chastisement."
IV. ITS RECEPTION. "My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord," etc.
1. It should not be deemed unimportant. "Regard not lightly the chastening of the Lord." "We may be said to despise the chastening of the Lord," says Dr. Wardlaw, "in the following eases:
(1) When it is not felt; when there is a want of natural sensibility to the particular stroke of the rod. This is but rare. Men in general are quite sufficiently alive to the value of temporal things. But the value is comparative. There are cherished and favorite possessions, and others less highly thought of, less fondly held. The Lord, it may be, deals gently. He spares the 'gourd.' He does not take what is most highly set by. And instead of humbly owning the kindness - being lowly and submissive, and seeking a blessing on the gentle stroke, that the heavier one may be withheld - the preservation and safety of the greater produces insensibility to the privation of the less; and the correction is thus disregarded, and proves inefficient.
(2) When it is not duly felt as from God.
(3) When, although God is seen in it and his hand is felt, it is not felt humbly and submissively; not bowed to, but resisted.
(4) When the design or end of correction is not laid to heart."
2. It should not be deemed intolerable. "Nor faint when thou art rebuked of him." We are not to sink under the reproofs and strokes of the Divine discipline, though they be severe. The fact that our trials are regulated by our Father's hand, that they are educational, that they are intended and adapted to promote our spiritual and eternal well-being, should keep us from sinking beneath their pressure.
"The tears we shed are not in vain; Tis in the tempest souls expand, Oh, welcome, then, the ocean's roar!
Tis in the tempest souls expand, Oh, welcome, then, the ocean's roar!
Oh, welcome, then, the ocean's roar!
Despise not thou the chastening of the Lord.
I. To "DESPISE THE CHASTENINGS OF THE LORD," imports the "making no account of them," as unworthy of serious regard, and includes inconsiderateness of mind, and an insensibleness of heart.
1. Inconsiderateness of mind with respect to the Author or end of chastenings.(1) With respect to the Author. When the afflicted looks only downwards, as if the rod of affliction sprang out of the dust (Job 5:6), and there were no superior cause that sent it.(2) Inconsiderateness of the end of the Divine discipline is a great degree of contempt. The evils that God inflicts are as real a part of His providence as the blessings He bestows; as in the course of nature the darkness of the night is by His order, as well as the light of the day; therefore they are always sent for some wise and holy design. Sometimes, though more rarely, they are only for trial, to exercise the faith, humility, patience of eminent saints; for otherwise God would lose in a great measure the honour, and His favourites the reward, of those graces — afflictions being the sphere of their activity. But for the most part they are castigatory, to bring us to a sight and sense of our state, to render sin more evident and odious to us.
2. Insensibility of heart is an eminent degree of despising the Lord's chastenings. A pensive feeling of judgments is very congruous, whether we consider them " either materially as afflictive to nature, or as the signs of Divine displeasure": for the affections were planted in the human nature by the hand of God Himself, and are duly exercised in proportion to the quality of their objects; and when grace comes, it softens the breast, and gives a quick and tender sense of God's frown.
II. THE CAUSES OF THE DESPISING OF GOD'S CHASTENINGS.
1. A contracted stupidity of soul, proceeding from a course in sin.
2. Carnal diversions. The pleasures and cares of the world, as they render men inapprehensive of judgments to come, so regardless of those that are present (Luke 21:34).
3. An obstinate fierceness of spirit, a diabolical fortitude. Their hearts are of an anvil-temper, made harder by afflictions, and reverberate the blow; like that Roman emperor, who, instead of humbling and reforming at God's voice in thunder, thundered back again.
III. I shall proceed to consider the other extreme, of FAINTING UNDER GOD'S REBUKES.
1. The original word signifies "the slackening and relaxing of things that were firmly joined together."
2. It may respect the sinking and falling away of the soul like water, being hopeless of overcoming troubles. When water is frozen into hard ice it will bear a great burden; but when it is melted, nothing is weaker: so the spirit of a man, confirmed by religious principles, is able to sustain all his infirmities (Proverbs 18:14).
2. The causes of this despondency are usually —(1) Either the kind of affliction. When there is a singularity in the case, it increaseth the apprehension of God's displeasure, because it may signify an extraordinary guilt in the person that suffers; and upon that account the sorrow swells so high as to overwhelm him.(2) The number and degrees of afflictions. When, like those black clouds which in winter days join together, and quite intercept the beams of the sun, many troubles meet at once, and deprive us of all present comfort.(3) The continuance of afflictions. When the clouds return after rain, and the life is a constant scene of sorrows, we are apt to be utterly dejected and hopeless of good.(4) The comparing their great sufferings with the prosperity of these who are extremely vicious, inclines some to despair.
IV. TO PROVE THAT IT IS THE DUTY AND WISDOM OF THE AFFLICTED NOT TO DESPISE THE CHASTENINGS OF THE LORD, .NOR TO FAINT UNDER THEM.
1. It is their duty carefully to avoid those extremes, because they are very dishonourable to God.(1) The contempt of chastisements is a high profanation of God's honour, who is our Father and Sovereign, and in that quality afflicts us.(2) Fainting under chastenings reflects dishonourably upon God.
2. It is the best wisdom not to despise God's chastenings, nor faint under them.(1) The contempt of chastenings deprives us of "ill those benefits which were intended by them.(2) The neglect of chastenings doth not only render them unprofitable but exposes to greater evils.(a) It provokes God to withdraw His judgments for a time. This the sinner desired, and thinks himself happy that he is at ease. Miserable delusion l This respite is the presage of his final ruin.(b) The slighting of lighter strokes provokes God sometimes to bring more dreadful judgments in this life upon sinners. No man can endure that his love or anger should be despised.(3) Faintings under chastenings is pernicious to sufferers.(a) It renders them utterly indisposed for the performance of duty. He that is hopeless of a good issue out of troubles, will neither 'repent nor pray nor reform, but indulges barren tears instead of real duties. Besides, it often falls out, that the same affliction is sent from God's displeasure upon His people for their sins, and is the effect of the rage of men against them upon the account of their professing His name.(b) They are incapable of the comforts proper to an afflicted state. Those arise from the apprehension that God loves whom lie chastens (Revelation 3:19); for the least sin is a greater evil than the greatest trouble, and His design is to take that away; and from the expectation of a happy issue. Hope is the anchor within the veil, that in the midst of storms and the roughest seas preserves from shipwreck. USE. The use shall be to excite us to those duties that are directly contrary to the extremes forbidden; namely, to demean ourselves under the chastenings of the Lord with a deep reverence and humble fear of His displeasure, and with a firm hope and dependence upon Him for a blessed issue upon our complying with His holy will.USE
I. With a humble reverence of His hand. This temper is absolutely necessary and most congruous with respect to God, upon the account of His sovereignty, justice, and goodness, declared in His chastenings; and with respect to our frailty, our dependence upon Him, our obnoxiousness to His law, and our obligations to Him that He will please to afflict us for our good.USE
II. Let us always preserve a humble dependence and firm hope on God for a blessed issue out of all our troubles.
1. The relation God sustains when He afflicts believers. He is a Judge invested with the quality of a Father.
2. It is a strong cordial against fainting to consider that, by virtue of the paternal relation, "He scourgeth every son whom He receiveth." For no troubles are more afflictive and stinging than those that are unexpected. Now when we are assured that there is no son whom the Father doth not chasten, we are less surprised and less troubled when we meet with crosses.
3. The apostle represents the special prerogative of God as " the Father of spirits" (ver. 9). As a prudent physician consults the strength of the patient as well as the quality of the disease, and proportions his medicine; so all the bitter ingredients, their mixture and measure, are dispensed by the wise prescription of God, according to the degrees of strength that are in His people.
4. The apostle specifies the immediate end of God in His chastenings. God is pleased to fashion us according to His image by afflictions, as a statue is cut by the artificer, to bring it into a beautiful form. He is pleased to bring us into divers temptations to try our faith, to work in us patience, to inflame our prayers, to mortify our carnal desires, to break those voluntary hands whereby we are fettered to the earth, &c.
(Wm. Bates, D. D.)I. DESPISE NOT THOU THE CHASTENING OF THE LORD. YOU are guilty of this —
1. When you shut your eyes to the Author of your affliction. Everything that takes place in the whole universe comes to pass either by His direct appointment, or by His equally direct permission.
2. When you inquire not the cause of your affliction. God "does not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men." If therefore He sends chastisement upon you there must be some adequate cause, which you are bound to search out and discover.
3. When you resist the design of your affliction. You have long, perhaps, been convinced that you ought to forsake sin, and turn wholly to the Lord. But sin has still kept its hold on you; and you have resisted the conviction of your conscience. At length, then, God interrupts your comforts-pours contempt upon your idols; or He comes even closer — chastises you with bodily sickness, sorrow, and pain.
II. FAINT NOT WHEN THOU ART REBUKED OF HIM.
1. Although God be the Author of your sorrows, it is as a Father that He sends them. All is not against you. Your heavenly Father is for you, and, if you trust Him, will make these "light afflictions, which are but for a moment, work out for you a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory."
2. Although sin be the cause of year sorrows, yet those sorrows are not the special penalty of sin. They may distress and scorch you, but you are not " tormented in this flame." Earth is not hell! Your Father is correcting you rather than punishing you.
3. Although conversion be the design of your sorrows, yet, it, was never intended that these should be, the only meads used by the Lord; and that you should be left, to do all the rest. The very expression, "when thou art, rebuked," implies that other methods are also employed. He gives "grace for grace" — a Saviour to pardon-a Spirit to heal — promises to encourage and save your soul.
(J. Jowett, M. A.)
I. THIS MAY BE DONE IN FIVE WAYS; AND IN DISCUSSING THE SUBJECT I SHALL PROPOSE THE REMEDY FOR EACH OF THESE AS WE PASS ALONG.
1. A man may despise the chastening of the Lord when he mumurs at it. Ephraim is like a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke; when a son of God first feels the rod he is like a bullock — he kicks at it, he cannot bear it. A want of resignation shows that we despise God's chastening hand. A word with thee, O murmurer! Why shouldst thou murmur against the dispensations of thy heavenly Father? Hast thou not read that amongst the Roman emperors of old it was the custom when they would set a slave at liberty, to give him a blow upon the head and then say, "Go free"? This blow which thy Father gives thee is a token of thy liberty, and dost thou grumble because tie smites thee rather hardly? After all, are not Ills strokes fewer than thy crimes, and lighter than thy guilt?
2. We despise the chastening of the Lord when we say there is no use in it. It is always a providence when it is a good thing. But why is it not a providence when it does not happen to be just as we please? Surely it is so; for if the one thing be ordered by God, so is the other. It is written, "I create light and I create darkness, I create good and I make evil. I, the Lord, do all these things." But I question whether that is not despising the chastening of the Lord when we set a prosperous providence before an adverse one; for I do think theft an adverse providence ought to be the cause of as much thankfulness as a prosperous one.
3. There is a third way in which men despise the chastening of the Lord, that is — we may think it dishouourable to be chastened by God. How many men have thought it dishonourable to be persecuted for righteousness sake! But, my son, thou dost not weigh the blessing rightly. I tell thee it is the glory of a man to be chastened for God's sake. Now you who faint under a little trouble, and despise the chastening of the Lord, let me encourage you in this way. My son, despise not the persecution. Remember how many men have borne it. What an honour it is to suffer for Christ's sake! because the crown of martyrdom has been worn by many heads better than thine.
4. Again, in the fourth place, we despise the chastening of the Lord when we do not earnestly seek to amend by it. Many a man has been corrected by God, and that correction has been in vain. Take heed if God is trying you, theft you search and find out the reason. Are the consolations of God small with you? Then there is some reason for it. I have sometimes walked a mile or two, almost limping along, because there was a stone in my shoe, and I did not stop to look for it. And many a Christian goes limping for years because of the stones in his shoe, but if he would only stop to look at them, he would be relieved. What is the sin that is causing you pain? Get it out, and take away the sin, for if you do not, you have not regarded this admonition which speaketh unto you as unto sons — "My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord"
5. Once more: we despise the chastening of the Lord when we despise those that God chastens.
II. The second evil is this: "NOR FAINT WHEN THOU ART REBUKED OF HIM."
1. The first way of fainting is when we give up all exertion under the rod.
2. Again, the man faints when he doubts whether he is a child of God under chastisement. Remember the passage: "If we be not partakers of chastisement then are we bastards, and not sons." Say not He has forgotten thee, but look upon thy trial as a proof of His love. Cecil once called on his friend Williams, and the servant said he could not see him because he was in great trouble, "Then I would rather see him," said Cecil; and Williams, hearing it was his old pastor, said, "Show him up." Up he went, and there stood poor Williams, his eyes suffused with tears, his heart almost broken, his dear child was dying: "Thank God," said Cecil; " 1 have been anxious about you for some time; you have been so prosperous and successful in everything that I was afraid my Father bad forgotten you; but I know He recollects you now. I do not wish to see your child full of pain and dying; but I am glad to think my Father has not forgotten you." Three weeks after that Williams could see the truth of it, though it seemed a harsh saying at first.
3. Again, many persons faint by fancying that they shall never get out of their trouble. "Three long months," says one, "have I striven against this sad trouble which overwhelms me, and I have been unable to escape it." "For this year," says another, "I have wrestled with God in prayer that He would deliver me out of this whirlpool but deliverance has never come, and I am almost inclined to give the matter up. I thought He kept His promises, and would deliver those who called upon Him, but He has not delivered me now, and He never will." What! child of God, talk thus of thy Father! say He will never leave off smiting because He has smitten thee so long? Rather say, "He must have smitten me long enough now, and I shall soon have deliverance." Say not thou canst escape. The fetters on thy hands may not be broken by thy feeble fingers, but the hammer of the Almighty can break them in a moment. Let them be laid on the anvil of Providence and be smitten by the hand of Omnipotence, and then they shall be scattered to the winds. Up, man! up. Like Samson, grasp the pillars of thy troubles and pull down the house of thine affliction about the heads of thy sins, and thou thyself shalt come out more than conqueror. Let me ask those who are afflicted and have no religion, where they get their comfort from. The Christian derives it from the fact that he is a son of God, and he knows that the affliction is for his good. But what does the worldling do when he loses his wife, when his children are taken away, when his health departs and he himself is nigh unto death? I leave him to answer.
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
(H. W. Beecher.)1. To "faint" when we as " rebuked" is to lose self-possession, or to be so overwrought, or overwhelmed with the trial, that we grow insensible to its nature, its extent, its punishment.
2. To "faint" when we are "rebuked" is under the pressure of the sorrow, to relax any duty — for praise or love — and especially to let go our holy confidences, and to take the eye off Jesus.
3. To "faint" when we are "rebuked" is to grow weary on account of its length, and not to let " patience have her perfect work."
(J. Vaughan, M. A.)"
(H. O. Mackey.)
Whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth.Psalm 91:15). Trouble is the special presence of God to the soul (Isaiah 43:2). He who, present with them, soothed to the three youths the flames of fire, so that they fanned softly around them, and were to them an unharming robe of glory; He who, ever-present with His disciples, then appeared to them, when the storm was at its highest, and its waves were boisterous; He, still present to the soul, now soothes to His own the fire of affliction, that, while it burns out the dross, it should not touch the soul, but should yield it pure, transfigured and translucent with the fire of love. He who baptizes with a baptism of blood, holds His own, that, although immersed and sunk deep down, the waters should not come in to the very soul itself, but should only wash away its stains through His most precious blood. Can there be more yet than the presence of God with the soul? Yes, the end of the presence is more to the soul itself than that presence itself. For it is the earnest of His abiding presence, yea, of union with God. Suffering, the due reward of our deeds, becomes, by His mercy, the means of conforming us to the Son of His love. While we suffer for our own sins, and bear about us less than their deserved chastisements, God gives us yet an outward likeness to His Cross, in that it is suffering. For " on Him were laid the iniquities of us all." But we still hang, as it were, by His side; His healing compassionate look falls upon us; from His all-holy sufferings there goeth forth virtue to sanctify ours. Hence is deserved suffering by God's mercy such a token of predestination, that it brings us near to, makes us partakers of, the sufferings of Christ.
(E. B. Pusey, D. D.)"between the flesh man and the spirit man." If, in unfolding ourselves from childhood to manhood, the process goes on by which we subdue the animal that is in us, and the passions that belong to it, by the ascendency of higher social, moral and intellectual inspirations, then suffering is more immediately and perceptibly a schoolmaster. Men are driven up higher and higher towards the citadel of God, by the sufferings which take place in the conflict between the lower and the higher man. Living largely in the West in my early life, I had the opportunity of beholding phenomena that are good illustrations. When the great western rivers were suddenly swollen, and booming freshets came tearing down, flooding the country on either side, I have seen the river Ohio, that was not a quarter of a mile wide, ten miles wide in the flood. Nothing is more familiar to the settlers than the fact that the animals are all driven from the lower places, and frequently it is the case that they mount to some round hill and the water following surrounds it, and they are imprisoned on that hill. But they still go higher up, and higher up, and higher up, until they get a place that is a refuge. Suffering that teaches an animal to go up ought to teach a man to go up. Then suffering is still on another level, where we suffer by our social relations, where we suffer with and for each other, and here is the beginning of the grandeur of the kingdom of suffering. Vicarious suffering then, I may say at last, is the law of the universe. Christ entered into the world to partake of those very things that the race have passed through, "Tempted in all points like as we are," tried into all points as we are; and as it is the law of social connection that one shall suffer for another, Christ suffered for men under the same great grand law of vicarious suffering. That is a wretched child, that is a wretched man, who has no one to suffer for him. Then, higher than this, or rather more extended in its relation, is the suffering which men have in civic relations. Men are not individuals. Man is a collective animal; every man stands on his own stem, but he also stands on the trunk which holds up a million stems, and if anything afflicts the root it afflicts everything at the top. Although blossom is not identical with blossom, nor fruit with fruit, human life is made up of individualisms; but collected and made into one great organisation. And so men must suffer when society suffers. Then, next and yet higher, men suffer on account of their moral relations that unite them to man and to God and to the universe. The progress of knowledge is through suffering. One man suffers, and leaves a glow of new truth behind him, which irradiates the whole of a generation. Thus far we can see and understand. But the world is the workshop of heaven. There we shall see the consummation of that which we see but feebly and understand but partially. Many there are on earth who see no outcome; they are underfoot, they are out of place; suffering seems not only to bring to them no relief and no inspiration, but it seems never to have declared its real nature to their surroundings or to their generations. Oh I there will be a land where these things will be known; there will be an interpretation to every pang and to every tear, and to every crushing sorrow; and as for those who suffer for a noble cause, who suffer for children, who suffer for those who have no parents, who suffer for the community, though they are accounted unworthy, and are east out by the community, though they be crushed out of life and hope, and go mourning all the days of their lives, there is a reckoning — that is to say, there is to be an unfolding of the reasons of their suffering, and the results of it which do not by any means all appear upon this mortal sphere and in this limited life — it is to be made known. You do not know what is going on, you do not know all the meaning of your sorrow; God does. Do you suppose that the wool on the sheep's back knows what it is coming to when it is sheared? When it was scoured, and washed, and spun, and twisted of its life almost; when it went into the hateful bath of colour; when it was put into the shuttle, and was thrust back and forth, back and forth, in the darkness, and out came the royal robe, it did not know what it started for; yet that is what it comes to — kings wear it. The flax in the field sighs to be made into the garment of the saints. All right. Pluck it up; rot it, put it under the brick, thread it, weave it, bleach it, purify it; and the saints may wear it now. It came to honour and glory through much suffering. Suffering is God's guardian guiding angel to those that will; it takes them up through the gate of trouble and trial to that land of perfectness and of everlasting peace. And you do not know what your suffering means? Yet you may rejoice in the general fact that somehow or other it is going to make you glorious if you are only worthy of it. Allow me still one more figure; for some may take one figure easily and some another. When this organ was built the lead and the zinc did not know what the men were about when they were melting them, and making them into pipes, and when the work was distributed through the different shops among different hands. Here you have the sesquialtera and the mixture — hideous stops unless they are masked or hidden under a great weight of sound. If you tried them in the factory you would run out with your fingers in your ears, and cry, "Lord deliver me from that sort of music! " Then there are the flute stops, and the diapasons in their grand under tones. With all the different parts of the organ separately made, unconnected, nobody can tell what is coming except an experienced workman; but by-and-by, little by little, the frame is erected, the stops are all arranged and in connection with the wind-chest, and now that it is an organic whole every part plays into every other part. As a whole it is magnificent; but the separate steps were poor and weak and unsatisfactory. God makes stops on earth, but He builds the organ in heaven; and many a man will never know till he comes there what was the reason of that providence by which he was trained and fitted to be of that great band of music in the heavenly home. Thus far illustrated and explained the subject will give rise to some applications. And, first, no man should hunt after suffering any more than a man should hunt after sickness. Do not regard suffering as if it were in and of itself a means of grace. If it makes you better it will come of itself. Secondly, lower animal suffering is penalty for sin; but, going up the scale, it is not punishment, but the other way. Men suffer because they are so good; they are the vicarious sufferers for those who are not good, through sympathy, through pity, through endeavour to help them, through self-repression for the development of those that are round about. I have but one more thought, and that is final — not alone in this sermon, but final in creation. No imagination can conceive the wonder, the ecstasy, of the great hour of finding out. When we have borne our body, borne our allotted suffering and pain, borne our obscurity and our persecution, borne all the troubles that go to the making of manhood in this life, unrecognised, not rated according to our moral value, rated according to the law of selfishness in human society, when at last emancipated the pauper from the poorhouse, the debtor from the prison, the broken-down man in business, who has been living on the crusts of his former prosperity, mothers, nurses, servants, whose souls were greater than their places, when at last they shall come and stand in the light of the eternal heavens — oh, what a surprise, and oh, what a dismay, when the last tumble from their heights of imagined greatness, when the first shall be last, and the last first! But oh! when the suffering is all gone, and we come to find ourselves, and come to find that the work of life, racking, filing, sawing in various violent ways upon us, has made us perfect, and we stand in the light of the other life, to see the meaning of all that has taken place in our obscure life — oh, what an hour of joy and of consolation!
(H. W. Beecher.)
I. THE ACCEPTANCE OF GOD'S MERCY DOES NOT ASSURE THE BELIEVER FROM THE LOT OF THE SUFFERER. It is perfectly true we may promise to him who accepts the gospel much joy and much pleasure. For a man to place himself in harmony with the Divine law; for him to say, "No longer my will but Thine be done"; for him to seek no more his ends but the Divine ends; he will find therein the peace, the calm, the quiet restfulness, enter his spirit, and will give him infinite delight. Now, this is true; but at the same time the believer will not be exempt from the conditions of distress. They will come. Natural griefs will be yours. The imperfections of his own character will distress him; the ideal that we sometimes set before us, and then the real that is ours; the picture that we would paint, and the unhappy daub that is often the result of our best endeavour; the beautiful garments that we would set upon ourselves — the garments of righteousness and glory — richer and brighter than the garments that the angels wear — and then the poor tattered rags of the righteousness that we have lost, and the smear and smirch of the secular wrong or the sensual vice into which we have fallen. Oh the disappointment through which life seems to pass until it shall reach the blessed consummation which you hope for! I promise you blessedness, infinite blessedness; but the sorrows will conic.
II. THE SUFFERINGS OF THE BELIEVER ARE INTENDED TO BE DISCIPLINES OF LIFE AND MINISTRIES OF CHARACTER. They direct the soul to its true home and life. Life eternal, remember, is a quality; it is not merely a state; and you may enter into eternal life now. Your sorrows and your pains do not belong to the eternal life; and they are given to you that you may lift your spirit out of the surroundings of the present, and that you may clothe them with the glory and the blessedness that belongs to the life that lies beyond. Yes; and these sufferings limit and destroy the evil that remains. And think of the scope it gives for the practice and perfection of the Christian's virtues.
III. THESE SUFFERINGS, BEING DISCIPLINARY, ARE THE PROOFS AND THE RESULTS OF THE DIVINE LOVE. They are signs that God has not forgotten us. One of the most famous men of this city one day said to me: "I know not how it is, I sometimes tremble at the success of my life. I have wealth beyond the dreams of avarice; I have success in business phenomenal even in these days of success; I have a satisfaction and joy in my family life and in all the relations of my public life that I cannot describe; I sometimes tremble with fear and apprehension." Within six months that man was smitten — smitten in what was the dearest part of his own self-consciousness; charged with an unworthy action, charged with base behaviour, and held up to obloquy because of things done in his name over which he had no control, and for which he was not responsible, but for which he suffered. Ah! God had not forgotten him. What is God's will concerning you? It is not merely your joy; it is the bettering of your moral nature; it is the perfecting of all those virtuous characteristics that come out even in the midst of your sorrow. And it is always accompanied by some proof of peculiar favour. When sometimes your loved ones have entered into the place of sorrow, be silent; God is with them. "Far off, far off, ye profane ones!" was the cry of the ancient priestess. So, sometimes, should be the cry to your own souls when the presence of God is manifested in the sorrows of those you love. This is the spirit in which we should receive it, and this is the forecast of its complete removal. For the work of chastisement shall be perfected. All the dealings of God with us shall issue in the attainment of the highest conceptions of the Christian life. And when sorrow shall have done its work, we shall have entered into that infinite life where death itself shall die, and sin itself shall be forgotten, the life that issued even out of the sins and the sorrows and the death of this.
(L. D. Bevan, D. D.)
(D. Clifford, D. D.)
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
(C. W. Bibb.)
(H. W. Beecher.)
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