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And who amongst us has not on many occasions betrayed the same weakness?
[We have borne up with fortitude perhaps against some trials, which have been light and transient; but how have we sustained those which were heavy, complicated, and of long continuance? When our troubles have arisen from those who were our avowed enemies, we have endured them manfully: but when they have come from a quarter that we did not expect, or from a quarter from whence we had reason to expect nothing but support and consolation, how have we endured them then ? If some near relative, or a friend that was as our own soul, have been the immediate cause of our affliction, and our enemies have been those of our own household, have we not given way to complaint and murinuring? Yea, have not our very spirits failed by reason of vexation, insomuch that we could find scarce any comfort in life. If we have not been turned from the faith, like those who were afraid to confess Christ, have we not been diverted from the path of duty, and been led to manifest a vindictive spirit instead of overcoming evil with good? Let this then suffice to shew us how weak we are, and how much we need the supports and consolations of the Gospel.]
But in the text the Apostle informs us, II. That a view of Christ's patience under his suffer
ings will afford us most effectual reliefMany are the consolations which the Gospel administers, by pointing out to us the author and the intent of our trials, together with the benefits resulting from them. But there is no source of comfort so great as that which the consideration of Christ's sufferings opens to us.
The contradiction of sinners which Christ endured was wonderful indeed
[Consider the unreasonableness with which he was opposed, when, notwithstanding the myriads of miracles that he wrought, his enemies were continually demanding more signs, and pretending a want of evidence as the ground of their unbelief. Consider the obstinacy with which he was rejected, when his victory over the devils was ascribed to a confederacy with them; and Lazarus himself was made an object of murderous resentment, because his restoration from the grave was the means of converting some who were more open to conviction.
8 John xii. 42.
Consider the malice with which he was persecuted. Incessantly did his enemies labour to ensnare him, and seek to take away his life. And, when they had a prospect of effecting their purpose, there was no method, however infamous, which they did not use to accomplish their wishes. With what inveteracy did they suborn false witnesses; and, on the failure of that device, compel the judge by clamours and menaces, to give sentence against him ! Consider the cruelty with which he was put to death. They might, one would have thought, have been satisfied with seeing his back torn, and even ploughed up, with scourges: but their cruelty was insatiable; for, even when he was nailed to the accursed tree, they ceased not to mock and insult him, and to add by their indignities a tenfold poignancy to all his anguish.
Yet, notwithstanding the contradiction of sinners against him was so great and unparalleled, he endured it all with patience, never fainting, never wearied, till he expired under the accumulated load.]
A due consideration of this will keep us from fainting under our sorrows
[What are our sorrows in comparison of his? The utmost we have met with is a little contempt and ridicule, or perhaps the loss of some worldly interests or prospects. “We have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin ;" and any thing short of that should be deemed unworthy of our notice. How slight are the aggravations of our sufferings in comparison of his! If we do not deserve such treatment from man, have we not merited infinitely worse from God? But he was altogether spotless; nor could either men or devils lay any thing to his charge. Perhaps we have endeavoured to do some good to those who now hate and revile us: but he came from heaven for the salvation of them that hated him; yea, and subjected himself to the power of his enemies, on purpose that he might effect their reconciliation with God. If then he patiently endured such things for us, should we faint when called to endure some light afflictions for him ? Surely we should rather rejoice that an opportunity is afforded us of testifying our love to him, and of approving ourselves faithful to his interests.] We may IMPROVE this subject, 1. For our humiliation
[How should we be ashamed of our readiness to shrink from the cross, and to complain when it is laid upon us! What if we should be called to lay down our lives for Christ, as
thousands have been before us? How should we endure that trial ? “ If we have run with the footmen and they wearied us, how shall we contend with horses ? if we be wearied in a land of peace, how shall we do in the swelling of Jordan i ?” Let us remember, that “ he who hateth not his own life, (when it stands in competition with his duty) cannot be Christ's disciple." Let us then never fear the face of mank; but whenever we are tempted to betray the cause of Christ, let us reflect on the example he has set us, and arm ourselves likewise with the same mind!."] 2. For our encouragement
[Some variation in our frames we must expect: but we must never suffer a desponding thought to lodge within us. Be it so; our sufferings are very great: then we are the more conformed to the example of our blessed Lord. And shall not this thought console us? And if we walk in his steps shall we not soon be with him where he is? Let us then be content to “fill up the measure of his sufferings,” and to follow him in his appointed way. Thus shall we, like him, “ be made perfect through sufferings; and, having suffered with him for a little while, “ be also glorified with him” to all eternity m.] i Jer. xii. 5.
* Isai. li. 7, 8, 12, 13. 11 Pet. iv. 1.
m Rom. viii. 17.
AFFLICTIONS THE FRUIT OF GOD'S LOVE. Heb. xii. 4-13. Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving
against sin. And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him : for whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons ; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not ? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.
Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence : shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure ; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness. Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous : nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby. Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees; and make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed.
PERSECUTION for righteousness' sake is what every child of God must expect : and when faith is in lively exercise, it will be sustained without murmuring. This is amply shewn in the preceding chaptera. But when faith languishes, the trials which believers are called to endure will appear almost insupportable. Such was the state of many of the Hebrews to whom the Apostle wrote: they were in danger of becoming weary and faint in their minds through the greatness and long continuance of their sufferings. On this account, St. Paul, having shewn them the power of a living faith to support them, brings before them a variety of considerations, I. For their consolation and support
The patience of Christ under his sufferings is beyond all comparison the strongest incentive to resignation under ours; since ours fall so infinitely short of his. This the Apostle first propounds for their consideration; and then goes on, in the words which we have just read, to offer other suggestions, which also are of great weight for the reconciling of the mind to trials, of whatever kind they be. From them we also, when bowed down with affliction, may learn to support them manfully : for,
1. They are far less than we have pledged ourselves willingly to endure
[The very terms on which we come to Christ are, that we shall be ready to die for him at any time, and in any way, that he shall see fit. We are plainly warned by our Lord himself, that, if we will not lay down our life for him, we cannot be his disciples. “ If we love our lives, we shall lose them: but, if we lose them for his sake, then shall we find them to life eternal.” But, what is the loss of temporal good when compared with that of life? Be it granted that, like the Hebrews, we have suffered much yet our persecutors have stopped far short of what they might have inflicted; and may, for ought we know, be yet permitted to inflict: “We have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin.” Instead therefore of complaining of the heaviness of our trials, we have reason rather to be thankful for the lightness of them: and, if we faint when they are so light, how shall we support them when they come upon us with unrestrained force ? “If we have run with footmen and they wearied us, how shall we contend with horsesc?” In our “ strivings then against sin" and Satan, let us prepare for yet greater extremities: and, when we are prepared for the worst that can come upon us, then will all which stops short of that appear light and easy to be borne.) 2. They are all the fruits of paternal love
a Heb. xi. 35-38.
b Heb. x. 32-34.
[God had exhorted his people under the Old Testament dispensation to regard their trials in this view, as sent by a loving Father to his children; and to receive them with truly filial gratitude, “neither despising them,” as though they came only by chance, “nor fainting under them," as though they had been sent in angerd. And the Apostle fixes our attention particularly on the tender and affectionate terms under which our God addresses us; " My son, despise not." And we should not overlook such endearing expressions, which, if duly attended to, would reconcile us even to the most afflictive dispensations. The truth is, that man is only an instrument in God's hands : and that the very afflictions which men lay upon us for our excess of piety, God lays upon us for our defects, or for the further advancement of his work within us. St. Paul's thorn in the flesh was ordained of God to prevent his being too much elated by the revelations which had been vouchsafed unto him. Our state in this world is a state of discipline: we are yet children, and need correction on account of our manifold errors and faults: and it is by correction that we are gradually brought to the exercise of true wisdom. This is found universally amongst men; insomuch that there is no wise father who does not occasionally correct his child. A man, who sees children that are unconnected with him acting amiss, takes no notice of them, but leaves to others the painful office of correcting them: but his own children he corrects, because of his peculiar interest in them, and his love towards them. Would we then that God should disregard us as bastards, that have no real relation to him? Would we not much rather be dealt with by him as his beloved children, in whose welfare he takes the deepest interest? Whatever then be our affliction, corporeal or mental, personal or domestic; or with whatever view it may be inAlicted on us by others, let us view the hand of a Father in it,
c Jer. xii. 5.
d Prov. iii. 11, 12.
e 2 Cor. xü. 7.