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friend John of Hesse: "You have entered the ship with Christ; what do you look for? Fine weather? Rather expect winds, tempests and waves to cover the ship till she begin to sink. This is the baptism with which you must first be baptized; and then the calm will follow upon your awakening Christ, and imploring his help; for sometimes he will appear to sleep for a season." There is great truth here which is borne out by the experience of almost all eminent Christians, but especially of that truly devout and holy woman, Madame Guyon, who by suffering especially was sanctified, and who says of herself: "Sorrows have come in upon me like a flood. I have been obliged to say with the Psalmist, All thy waves and thy billows have gone over me;' and with Jeremiah, Thou hast caused the arrows of thy quiver to enter into my veins.' But the love of God rendered my sorrows sweet. His invisible hand has supported me. Happy are they who are sharers with Christ in suffering."
"That we should bear the cross is thy command,
Suffer, unmoved beneath the rudest hand;
When shipwreck'd pleased as when upon the shore.
That is a striking passage of Jeremiah, true alas of very many now: I spake unto thee in thy prosperity, and thou saidst I will not hear. How often is it so, a man's ear obstinate or quite deaf to expostulations, and to the voice even of God himself in his Word, and the heart obdurate, till the deaf ear is pierced by the loud voice of Providence, and the hard heart made tender by severe affliction! Prosperity long continued is apt to make such a lethargy steal over the soul that the still voice of God in calm weather and the cool of the day will not awaken a man; but He must thunder and lighten about his ears in afflictions before the man will even notice that God is speaking to him. While all things go on smoothly with a man in his sins, the threatenings of God's Word beat upon him with no more force than stubble or snow against a stone wall. He stands unshaken and unconcerned, presuming that the course of his affairs will go on always as evenly as now, that to-morrow will be as to-day, and much more abundant; until the big hail-storm of sorrow actually falls upon his own head, and he is startled by some dire calamity.
Now the wisdom of God is seen in the choice of his rods, in the divers ways whereby he corrects and makes his children perfect through suffering; for it is far from being one and the same form of trouble that will work upon and purge every sin, and He accordingly disciplines and punishes men, so to speak, in kind. If one's besetting sin be avarice, or a too great fondness
for acquisition and the creation of wealth, he tells our riches to take wings and fly away: and our ships are sunk, our houses and stores and factories burned; our fields are flooded, our farms swept away, our crops rotted in the ground or blasted in the ear, or mildewed before they are harvested; our speculations turn out poorly; our stocks depreciate; our banks of deposit become bankrupt and all this in a natural way, and by natural means, without God's at all suspending or working contrary to second causes. Or if our sin be any sensual indulgence, or too great fondness for creature comforts and pleasures, then God often makes that indulgence like the manna of the greedy Israelites, to breed its own worm, and the quails so fondly lusted after to come out at the nostrils, the stomach to loathe even its natural food, and the appetite and ability of digestion both to fail. Or if the sin that is ensnaring our affections and keeping us at a distance rom God be any creature-idolatry, as a wife or child, then God, as we are strikingly taught in Parnell's Hermit :
"Then God to save the father, takes the son,
Providences like these are what bring us to our senses, and serve as a check-rein on us when we are running wild. These are the brakes, which God himself, like a prudent brakeman, wisely lets down upon us when our speed is getting dangerous, and we are liable to run off the track. These, in other words, are God's ways of repression when we are getting too much momentum, and hurrying on too fast in a career of self-pleasing, of business, of ambition, worldliness, or dissipation in any way. Lo all these things worketh God oftentimes with man, to bring back his soul from the pit.
When trials thus carry us back to God, and purge the heart and life from sin, leaving both more pure, heavenly and humble than they found them; or when, better still, a long-continued and most harassing trial leads a Christian to do what it is said the pearl-oyster does, i. e. secrete from itself a precious substance to cover over the irritating grain of sand or sharp bit of metal that has got within its shell, thus turning it into a gem, how blessed the effect, and who would not be almost willing to bear the trial for the sake of the resulting pearl.
It is a remark of John Foster, that a salutary impression made on the soul by some affliction of the body is a good greatly more than compensating the evil. In the last great account, no doubt, a vast number of happy spirits will have to ascribe that happiness to the evils inflicted on their bodies as the immediate instrumental cause. Surely then those are health-producing, though distressing sicknesses, curative though powerful purges, kindly though stunning blows of affliction, that through sanctification of the spirit, are followed by such a result to the soul made perfect
through suffering; and whether it be for a day, or a week, or a month, or a year, or a series of years, that we are arrested and laid aside, each sickness and every other painful trial should be viewed as special messengers to us from the great Disposer of all events, giving the opportunity, and loudly calling on us to improve them for our own good and God's glory.
And this leads me to remark by way of practical improvement to this subject, that Christians now under the rod ought to be thankful for this proof of their Father's dealing and love. "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 (sons) are partakers, then are ye bastards and not sons. Therefore despise not thou the chastenings of the Almighty, neither faint when thou art rebuked of him. For he maketh sore, and bindeth up; he woundeth, and his hands make whole. He shall deliver thee in six troubles, yea in seven there shall no evil touch thee."
These scriptures have a definite and clear reasoning as to the cause and the intent of afflictions to the righteous; the cause, God's love to them; the intent, the increase of their love to him. My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; knowing this that the trying of your faith worketh patience. Blessed is the man that endureth temptation, for when he is tried he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him. "When he is tried"-the trial of faith it is that is precious; to trust God in the thick midnight of trial under providences which every moment gather blackness, that is precious; it is of great intrinsic,value in God's sight, for it honors him, and there is a peculiar blessing pronounced upon not seeing and yet believing, which they who do thus believe, and who when tried thankfully embrace afflictions, and strive to get the good of them, shall assuredly know. What thou seest not now thou shalt see hereafter.
"God nothing does, nor suffers to be done,
But what thou wouldst thyself could thou but see
It is not a moderate faith that will keep us believing while not seeing; nor is it a superficial rooting and grounding that will keep us steady when the storms of adversity arise. But our roots must strike deep, and know the place of stones, and be wound around the pillars of the promises, if we would be preserved from shaking under the inevitable vicissitudes and trials of life.
I have observed at sea, and it is often noticed by mariners, that in the beginning of bad weather, before the storm was fairly set in and fixed in its course, the needle in the compass-box was considerably affected, and there was unusual oscillation, probably through the changing or disturbance of the atmosphere's electric forces. But after the gale was fairly formed or at its height, the
needle became true to its polarity. In like manner is it with a mind under trial that has been once thoroughly magnetized by the grace of God, so as to have the law of Divine polarity impressed upon it, making it to turn always to that pole-star of Bethlehem, the great magnet of the regenerated soul. Though ordinarily true to his pole, yet in sudden emergencies, on the first storm-burst of trial, it is seldom tor never that the Christian can at once repress the flutter and agitation of nature, control or understand its deviations, collect his energies, and repose calmly on God. It is seldom that faith, taken by surprise, does at once steady the soul, and lift a man clear above hostile infirmities and fears. Although it be true that when once magnetized by the love of God, the soul does always point upward by strong attraction, as the compassneedle to the north, yet, like that same needle, suddenly acted upon by a disturbing force, you must give it time to recover its balance, and, its oscillations done, to fasten upon the central point of rest.
We have known God's dear children sometimes, when calamities came suddenly in prospect, when huge billows seemed ready to go over them, and a black cloud of sorrows was about to burst upon their heads, at first trembling and anxious, swinging a little with trepidation to this side and that of the central point of rest. But as the trial became more distinctly defined, the cloud's lightning began to flash, and its big drops to fall, the palpitating heart would be still, the vibrations of the will would cease, faith gather strength, and the eye of the soul be upturned and fastened on a faithful God, and its hand grasp firmly the promises, which neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, can ever loosen.
Brethren, is it in those promises that we are strongly rooted, so as to fear no evil? Is our anchor firm in the Word of God? Is it cast within the veil? and do we find our ship ride easy with it in a gale? The engrossing earnestness with which the captain of a ship (which the good providence of God once placed me in) studied his chart, and watched the soundings, while it was so foggy we could hardly see a ship's length ahead, in order to make his way safely to port over a dangerous shoal, and at the close of a long voyage, taught me a lesson I have never forgotten of the way in which we should all study, and watch the answers of God's word and prayer, as we prosecute the voyage of life, having to sail by a thousand sunken rocks and shoals and perilous quicksands, before we can make the port of peace.
He would himself carefully put the tallow or soap into the hollowed end of the lead, then heave it himself, or hold the line, and carefully ascertain when it reached the bottom. Then he would scrutinize it closely when hauled up, to learn what report it brought from the bottom, whether it were sand, or gravel, or mud, or ooze adhering to the end, or whether it were dented as
if it had fallen on rocks. Then he would sit down to his chart with compass, and slide, and slate, to compare what he had found by the soundings with what was told on the paper, and fix, if possible, upon his position on the great shoal, and shape his course accordingly through the fog-damp darkness for the next hour. Then he would lie down on the transom in his great watch-coat, to catch a half-hour's sleep, with the chart unrolled before him on the cabin table, and a signal lantern swinging over it.
Now with the same carefulness should we ponder the word of God, that we may be shaping our course aright over the tempestuous sea of life, where, even as to the mariner,
Dangers of every shape and name
It is seldom in our voyage along these coasts of time that we are not in peril from some out-jutting reef, or shoal, or sunken rock, or moving quicksand; to avoid which we must heave the lead, and watch our soundings, and study well our chart, and keep a good look-out. Then, if only vigilant and faithful, with what thankfulness and grace in our hearts shall we be singing, the rest of our way through time,
A thousand deaths I daily 'scape,
I sail by many dreadful rocks,
And when the perils of probation are all over, and we are safe home at last in heaven, how will the numberless vicissitudes and trials of the voyage be as a dream when one awaketh! Safely moored there in the port of peace, and finding the end not only answer but far exceed our expectations, how will the trials endured and the hazards seen in time enhance the glory of eternity; and with what fervent gratitude shall we praise God for them all!
We remark, finally, that those who are not exercised with afflictions, unless they are manifestly growing in grace, have just ground for fear; fear lest continued prosperity harden their hearts, and beget the spirit of pride and self-indulgence and worldliness, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, that it become unfruitful; and fear lest it be an evidence of no peculiar fatherly love to them on the part of God. They are far from being the happiest and safest men who prosper in the world, who increase in riches, whose eyes stand out with fatness, who have more than heart could wish; who are not in trouble as other men, neither are they plagued like other men ; who heap up silver, and gold, and merchandize, who multiply houses, and lands, and honors.
On slippery rocks I see them stand; and in the view of true wisdom their envied estate, with all its affluence, and ease, and luxury, but forgetfulness of God, is not worth a desire in compa