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not live as they would, to rush into eternity uncalled, and tell the Almighty to his face, that they will not live at all. But where afflictions are sanctified, it is otherwise. The afflicted person can say with the Apostle, Though no affliction for the present is joyous, but grievous; nevertheless, afterwards, it yieldeth the peaceable fruits of righteousness to them that are exercised thereby :" and he can add with Job, “ The Lord knoweth the way that I take; and when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.”
This subject affords us a good criterion, by which to judge of our own character. Job could appeal to the omniscience of God, and derive hope and comfort from the consideration that all things were naked and open to the eyes of him with whom he had to do. Can we do so? Is it really a satisfaction and an encouragement to us, to think that God's eye is always upon us ? Our Lord tells us, that every one that doeth evil, hateth the light; neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved; and their consolation is, that they are so effectually disguised, or concealed, that they cannot be discovered. Poor consolation indeed! God will one day let them know, to their confusion, that they were deceived. These things hast thou done, and I kept silence : thou thoughtest that I was altogether such an one as thyself. But I will reprove thee, and set them in order before thine eyes." “ Beloved,” says the Apostle, “ If our hearts condemn us, God is greater than our hearts, and knoweth all things. If our hearts condemn us not, then have we confidence towards God.”
Secondly, we see the reason why we are so often
afflicted. It is because we have so much dross that requires the fire, and many times a fierce fire, to separate it from the metal. We are continually contracting fresh pollution, which requires fresh purification. Put a wedge of gold into the fire, and when it is once thoroughly refined, if it be kept by itself, it will continue pure för ever.
But it is not so with our hearts. If to-day we be ready to pride ourselves upon our purity, before to-morrow, we shall have fresh cause for grief and humiliation. When we think of this, instead of wondering that we are so often in the furnace, we have rather to wonder that we are ever out of it.
This subject also teaches us what should be our greatest concern when we are under any trials. We should be more solicitous for improvement by an affliction than for its removal. But here, alas! at least in the beginning of a trial, we are sadly deficient. We are ready to say, O wretched man that
who shall deliver' me from this affliction ? And if any attempt is made to reason us into resignation, by reminding us of the author of our trouble, we, perhaps, hastily say, “I care not who sent it; tell me, if you can, who will take it away.” But he that believes, does not make haste. If we believe that God's kingdom rules over all, and that he has wise and gracious purposes in the whole of his conduct, we shall be willing for him to act in whatever manner he pleases. We shall say, “Lord, though at first I was ready to wish that this cup. had passed from me, or that I could have been excused from drinking any deeper, yet, where thy glory is concerned, I will not consult with my own inclinations. I yield myself up, entirely and cheerfully, to thy management and dis
posal. I am not now impatient for deliverance; and if thou seest that it would be best for the affliction to continue, I wish not to be delivered. I will be content to stay in the furnace to the end of my life, if, when thou hast tried me, I may come forth as gold.”
To conclude; this should induce us to long for that time, when the trial of our faith, being much more precious than of gold which perisheth, though it be tried with fire, shall be found to praise, and honour, and glory, at the appearing of Jesus Christ.
SUPPOSE that I could lead you to the rich mines of Mexico or Potosi, and show you the heaps of gold and silver which those regions afford. If I could tell you, that you might take what you would, do you think you should be content with looking at them, and admiring them, and, after all, bring nothing away? No; you would carry away as much as you could; and envy your stronger or more fortunate neighbours who brought home more than yourselves. Yet I come, sabbath after sabbath, and set before
the treasures of grace, the unsearchable riches of Christ, and offer any of them, all of them, to you, without money or price: and the smallest of these spiritual benefits is of more real value than a house full of sil. ver and gold. But I bring them out, and I carry them home again and again, before I can prevail with any one to accept them. 'Do you think the charge too severe? Tell me, and make me happy, by convincing me that I am deceived. The generality care for none of these things: their attention is otherwise engaged. They can inquire, “ Who will show us any good ?" or, Who will teach us to grow rich apace? But as to spiritual blessings, though they may be obtained by asking, they turn away from them with indifference and contempt. They act as if they said, “ These things suit not our taste; we have other and better objects in view.” However, in the midst of all discouragements, there are some, blessed be God, there are a few who are otherwise minded. They covet earnestly the best gifts. They count all things but loss, for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus their Lord. They can say of these spiritual blessings, what David asserts of God's command. ments; “ More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the honey-comb."
To you then, Christians, I am now sent with this word of exhortation. If any of you have attained to assurance of God's love, be thankful : it is what many of his children are waiting and wishing to enjoy. If you have true and settled peace of conscience, be thankful; for in a world so full of trouble and tumult, it is a distinguishing mercy to have all quiet and comfortable within. Be thankful, I say, but not satisfied. If your attainments be great, they may be still greater. You are not, even in the possession of such goods, to say, “Soul take thine ease;" as if you had nothing to do, but to enjoy what you had acquired. Think not “that you have already attained, or that you are already perfect ;" but “Grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.”
I shall now inquire what it is to grow in grace, why it should be sought, and how it may be obtained.
I. What is it to grow in grace?