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much talked of discovery of painless surgery, not yet having been introduced into the kingdom of grace.
It is the nature of almost all medicines and operations that are really effective, to be distasteful and repulsive in taking them; and they excite and produce an impression upon the system just in proportion to their own strength and the violence of the disease to be subdued. A slight affection or derangement of the health is alleviated and removed by a gentle medicine; but a very strong disease, such as sin often is, can be overcome only by the most powerful remedies. Now, in order to cure the distempers and correct the had humors and vicious habits of his children, God will use such remedies in the form of trials, painful though thoy be in the immediate application. Hence a good man in affliction may be regarded as a patient under treatment for a cure by the best physicians; and we can but congratulate him, though the operation may be severe. That is best for a man which keeps his soul near to God, and teaches him the need of watchfulness, and the importance of keeping bis armor on, and his shield up, and his sword drawn.
It is founded upon universal experience that the Christian flourishes most and grows the strongest in trials and storms. Hence, undoubtedly, the saying, in substance, of Baxter, that although ordinarily God would have vicissitudes of summer and winter, day and night, in order that the church may grow extensively in the summer of prosperity, and intensively and rootedly in the winter of adversity; yet, usually, the night of the church is longer than its day, and day itself has its storms and tempests. Who of us has ever talked with any tried, ripe Christian upon his special afflictions, without finding him to prize most highly of all the lessons he had learned and the benefits which had resulted, to him from his severest trials ? This there are many who will say even when immediately under the operation of the medicine of affliction: and if sanctifying grace and the teaching of the Spirit be offered, we shall bear from all when the trial is over, that they would not have lost one pain or sorrow.
But our danger under affliction lies in having the pain without the profit; in going through our trials and afflictions as a sort of allotted calamity common to all, instead of submissively regarding them as a medicinal process, appointed by Infinite Wisdom and Love for a definite purpose, to cure particular sins. We do not sufficiently watch the symptoms, either of our disease or our remedy. We do not, as we ought, deliver up ourselves to, and fall heartily in with the design of, our great Physician; and, therefore, as in the case of a man who takes a medicine by force, and without faith or goodwill, we lose much of its benefit. The remedy does not accomplish its design until it destroys in us the deep and entwining root of selfishness, and substitutes the graces of the Spirit, and that
especially of pure love to God and disinterested kindness to : men.
Those graces will only thrive in the soul, when there has been inuch plowing and harrowing, and weeding out the roots of biiterness, which are the natural productions of the per-:verse soil of our hearts. The plow, the harrow, and the hoe of affliction, are instruments we by no means naturally love, for they bring out to our sight many an ugly reptile of pride and self-will that lay beneath the surface quite undiscovered before. But discover them we must before we can be thoroughly cured, and this is one of the statutes God means we should learn under this wise though trying discipline.
2. Another of the Divine statutes learned in affliction is, that it is God's will and way to make his children perfect through suffering. Even the Great Captain of our salvation was sealed with the sacred seal of suffering. In the language of the quaint old hymn, so full of genuine religious experience:
“ The heirs of salvation,
I know by his word,
Must follow their Lord."
“ You have entered the ship with Christ," said Luther to his 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 bast 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,
Die to the world, and live to self no more ;
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 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 lethargv 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 from God be any creatureidolatry, 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,
The poor fond father humbled in the dust,
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, wbich 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 of tentimes 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 harrassing trial leads a Christian to do what it is said the pearl oyster does, i.e., secrete from irself 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 pot 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 deliv, er thee in six troubles, yea in seven there shall no evil touch toee."
These scriptures have a definite and clear reasoning as to the cause and 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 has 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, thit is precious ; it is of great intrinsic value in God's sight, for it honor's him, and there is a peculiar blessing pronounced upon not seeing and yet believing, which they who do thus believe, and who when tried thank fully embrace afflictions, and strive to get the good of them, shall assuredly know. What tbou seest not now thou shalt see hereafter.
"God nothing does, nor suffers to be done,
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 compassbox 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 or 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 compass-needle 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.