« PreviousContinue »
when these things come that we understand them. Then, not a few scriptures which scarcely attracted notice before, become fraught with meaning and power. Blessed is the man whom thou chastenest, and teachest out of thy law.
Adversity, therefore, as it respects believers, is always designed, more or less, TO PREVENT EVIL. What the Sovereign of the universe did toward Jesus Christ, considered as our Surety, is the whole of what he does in relation to us in the character of a judge:—all that remains is the discipline of parental love. Through the sacrifice of the cross we have ceased to be the children of wrath, and God does not afflict us willingly. We are not to be condemned with the world; and if we suffer all the day long, and are chastened every morning, it is that we may be separated from the evils of the world, and raised above it. Adversity interposes to prevent our passing on from lesser sins to greater, and sometimes to secure us against listening at all to the seductions of the way of death. There was an eye which saw the dangers to which Peter was exposed while the apostle saw them not; and that discernment can detect innumerable seeds of evil in our case of which we are unconscious; and the same care, which, in the sovereignty of its doings, was providing for the safety of Peter, beyond what he could have asked or thought, is ever thus employed in behalf of the redeemed.
And it should be treasured up as an important fact, that of all the dispensations of heaven, these
preventive interpositions of its goodness, are generally the most mysterious. The sin of David, in the matter of Uriah, will explain the suffering which followed. But adversity might have been employed to eradicate the first seeds of evil inclination, instead of occurring as the means of correcting it when matured into transgression. In that case, however, the event would probably have been among the many, the reasons of which can only be known hereafter. His severest scrutiny would not, perhaps, have discovered the cause, and the whole might in consequence have been clothed with mystery. Eternity alone will disclose to us how often the occurrences of which we have bitterly complained have been made, in this manner, the means of saving us from greater evils.
Then most, when most irregular they seem.
Where this intervention does not take place, and we fall into sin, the Father whom we serve possesses too much parental affection to allow of our continuing in such a course. His words are, If my children forsake my law, and walk not in my judgments; if they break my statutes, and keep not my commandments; then will I visit their transgressions with the rod, and their iniquities with stripes. And how much is there, even in the least faulty among us, to require the frequent verification of this scripture? How much defectiveness and evil in our conduct?
What a mixture of the vain and
earthly in our motives and desires-even in the purest exercises of our mind? With a malady so complicated upon us, is it surprising that the prescriptions of the Great Physician should be frequent, and sometimes far from agreeable? Surely it is meet to be said unto God, I have borne chastisement, I will not offend any more; that which I see not teach thou me; if I have done iniquity I will do so no more.
It will hardly be needful to observe, that an important part of the design of the Most High in thus trying, and teaching, and improving the character of his people is, that their light may so shine before men that others, seeing it, may be constrained to glorify their Father who is in heaven.
It must be remarked, in conclusion, that all these considerations, which minister so much aid to the Christian in his warfare as connected with adversity, derive the whole of their efficiency from the fact, that the grace provided, in the gospel in aid of the suffering is ALL-SUFFICIENT GRACE. It is grace which has been so proved in the experience of a multitude which no man can number. All our burdens are adjusted by him who alone knows what we can bear. The nature, the extent, and the duration, of our present afflictions,—all are regulated by him who has said, As thy day is, thy strength shall be. My grace shall be sufficient for thee. My strength shall be perfect in thy weakness. Our enemies are all his enemies; and our ultimate triumph must, in consequence, be his glory. It is
a fatal error to suppose that adversity will prove a school for heaven, apart from the sufficiencies of that grace which was procured for men by the great sacrifice which has blotted out our transgressions. It is this grace which savingly enlightens ; it is this which soothes; it is this alone which gives sanctity to the path of the afflicted.
It is manifest then, that adversity, in some of its modifications, is inevitable; and that its occurrence in many forms, is so far probable, as to be on the very line of certainty. Sickness, poverty, reproach, bereavement, and many a secret sorrow,-to all these we are exposed; under most of these we shall unquestionably suffer. But what shall the issue be? Every thread of our present existence is interwoven, by its consequences, with the future; and what shall that future be? The results of present suffering are all strictly dependent on our present character. If we are Christians, the grace which has made us such, can render whatever is afflictive in our lot on earth conducive to the ultimate perfectness of our Christianity. But if this character be wanting, the element of all good is wanting.
Nothing can be more animating than to anticipate the effects of adversity in the destiny of those over whom it has had its proper influence. The mind, as thus employed, passes from whatever is painful or humiliating in this dreaming world, to whatever is joyous and elevated in the world to
Between these there is seen to be all the relation of cause and effect; and the evils endured below, never fail to derive something of greatness, and even of blessedness, from the transcendent nature of the good in which they are meant to terminate, and to which they are tributary. Thus it is not only true, as repeatedly affirmed by the Saviour, that the path of humiliation is the only path to honour; but that the whole discipline connected with the pains and sorrows, the vanities and uncertainties, of our present being, is no other than the divinely allotted path to a state of endless repose, enjoyment, and perfection. We thus learn that the many unwelcome things which now succeed each other so rapidly, are all pregnant with their opposites; while the amount of what is now grievous, is so trivial, when compared with the state of felicity which it is made to subserve, that its very nature seems to undergo a change-we glory in tribulation also, knowing that tribulation worketh patience, and patience experience, and experience hope. The ambitious, the worldly, the lover of pleasure, these think lightly of their toils and endurances in proportion as the end proposed is deemed secure. The results toward which the Christian is directing his solicitudes are distinguished by an infinite greatness, and are rendered certain by the oath of the Unchangeable ;—well may we conclude that his resignation, and his confidence, amid all intervening difficulty, will be great!