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which is best for him, and no more; combining in some inscrutable way all that the highest interests of his whole Church requires, with the wisest provision for the needs of each of her members.
But though sorrow and pain "shall work together for good to them that love God," yet we cannot with confidence expect that they will be made blessings to those who neglect the ever-present training and instruction, which He has provided for us in our daily duties, in the relations of life, through the dispensations of his Providence, and by the means of grace. The calls to repentance and to holiness, the messages of mercy and love, and all the revelations of the mind and will of God, are not sent to us in the time of affliction only. They are with us continually, although it is often in affliction that the ear is readiest to catch their tones, when the world's turmoil is hushed around the sick-bed. The heavenly voice may first be heard in some hour of darkness and perplexity, but we must listen for it again and again, amidst all the circumstances of ordinary life, if we would have it make us wise unto salvation. "He wakeneth morning by morning, he wakeneth mine ear to hear as the learned." It would well accord with our unwatchful and slothful tendencies to take shelter, in the day of prosperity, under another belief, and to say that as trouble, which comes to all, must sometime come to us, then, when it does come, will be just the time for religious progress, and meanwhile "a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep."
Man's work is commonly done by interrupted efforts and sudden puttings forth of visible endeavour. But amidst the works of God all is steady, continual progression: "first the blade, then the ear, then the full corn in the ear." Indeed, the Divine injunction, "Grow in grace," and many others in Holy Scripture, bring before us these analogies of nature, as if to lead us to an imitation, in our spiritual life, of the Divine pattern. But it is this which is so difficult: any sacrifice, any labour which, once performed, we could rest from and have done with, we are ready for; but we are not ready for this daily, never-ending task.
But if we may not regard the time of affliction or trial as the only time in which we are to look for Divine instruction, so it is most dangerous to slight or put from us the good which such a season is meant to bring. We may persuade ourselves that there is little to be done but to learn the one lesson of endurance; and that if we have but passed through our grief or sickness with few complainings, we are as much benefited as we could be by it. Yet this were but a scanty advantage, compared with those which we are encouraged to expect. Let us form a far larger and worthier estimate of what God has prepared for us in this visitation; of what we should long for, and strive after, as its result.-For affliction is meant to discipline the whole man; to bring out the several graces of the Christian character," tribulation working patience," not as a single and separate work, but in such wise that "pa
tience worketh experience, and experience hope, and hope maketh not ashamed, because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which is given us." What a harvest of blessings this one passage of Scripture exhibits to us as springing from affliction and indeed is it not written, that "afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruits of righteousness to them that are exercised thereby?" Consider also David's testimony: "Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now have I kept thy word." How much is there not implied in this, of subsequent persevering diligence, of daily self-denial and watchfulness, of faithful service, of holy obedience. Surely it is most evident that the training of affliction is meant to produce in us great and lasting results.
Has then affliction fallen upon you?-Say first, "It is the Lord. Let him do what seemeth him good.' It is THE LORD. And with Him are infinite wisdom, power, and love; therefore let Him do what seemeth Him good: He best-nay, He alone-knows what to do for and with me."-We are in danger at such times of looking away from Him, and thinking only of second causes, greatly disquieting ourselves by doing so. We reflect with bitter anguish, that but for some untoward circumstance, some precaution neglected, some one little thing done or left undone, all might now be well with us. Vain thoughts,-which yet perseveringly return to haunt us: surely most vain; for it is the good and merciful Lord who has appointed the trial, and He might as easily have brought it about in any one of a thousand other ways.
It is the Lord:-and remember how in the nightstorm on the sea, when the disciples' hearts failed them for fear of that dim mysterious form which drew near, half hidden by the darkness, the voice of their Master spoke instant peace: "It is I, be not afraid." If you indeed know who it is that cometh to you upon the waves of these afflictions, amidst the darkness of this trial, you will not be dismayed.
You are not forbidden the natural outpouring of sorrow for "Jesus wept." What an unspeakable blessing in the day of adversity to know that our Lord, who is very and Eternal God, is also most truly man; that He is acquainted with grief, having taken it to his bosom for long years that He might experience what it was. And He is so touched with a feeling of our infirmities, that there is not a throb of anguish, not a pang of mental or physical pain, which we may not bring to Him for sympathy. He knows all, He has felt all, He can heal all.
The world, after its fashion, will offer consolation, and tell you that others suffer still more, and that things might have been worse; some greater evil might have befallen you. These are in themselves but comfortless thoughts, and there is nothing helpful in the strange unconscious half-atheism, from which they often spring; as if man was the plaything of blind destiny, instead of a being experiencing the love and compassion of the merciful God. But you will find a Christian meaning for what is thus ignorantly said, and will mark with gratitude how the
goodness of our blessed Lord has indeed shielded you from the many aggravations which might have accompanied your sorrow, and how He has provided for you many unexpected alleviations.
Numberless circumstances, each perhaps small in itself, but full of meaning, will combine to show you, that you are not forsaken in this time of trial. Many of God's promises, too, will now seem as if they had been written especially for your consolation. Some of these will assure you of his presence during affliction:- "When thou passest through the waters I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee. For I am the Lord thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour'."-Others will direct you to the true source of strength: "Cast thy burthen upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee "." "He giveth power to the faint; to them that have no might he increaseth strength." "Come unto me, all ye that are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest."-Some will remind you of the parental character of God: "Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him. For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust"." Others will suggest that your condition as his child, because it is so full of blessings, involves the necessity of enduring his
1 Is. xliii. 2.
2 Ps. lv. 22..
3 Is. xl. 29.
5 Ps. ciii. 13, 14.