Sunday, December 06, 2009
I remember when I was quite young spiritually, and I had to take a stand, and it was very hard. I felt the reproach, and I felt it keenly, and the bitterness of it. All my companions were going out, and I had to refuse to go with them. I was in Rochdale that day, and I was going quite close to John Kershaw's chapel, when this word came:
"Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt."
You children, you young people, there will be that reproach that you will have to bear.
By B.A. Ramsbottom
A king of the ancient kingdom of Syracuse once asked one of his wisest men, Simondes, the question: "What is God?"
He asked for a day to think over his answer. But the next day he returned and asked for an extension of two more days, and then four more days and eventually eight more days!
The king was getting rather exasperated and impatiently asked why he needed so much time: to which the wise man replied: "The more I think of God, the more I realise how little I know of Him."
Perhaps this man knew what Job said:
"Lo these are parts of His ways: but how little a portion is heard of Him?"
By Gerald D. Buss
Some while ago, a gamekeeper was walking through part of the estate for which he was responsible, when he heard the moaning of a dog. He turned aside and found a dog with its leg trapped in a snare. When he first tried to approach the dog to free it, he was met with snarls and vicious growls. But notwithstanding the hostile dog, he managed at length to release its leg, whereupon the dog turned and licked his face appreciatively and followed him as if it was his own dog.
What a picture is this of the effects of grace!
When the Lord begins to call a sinner by His grace, the natural heart of that sinner is totally opposed to God and godliness. This is seen when the sinner says: "We will not have this Man to reign over us." But grace conquers this in the end, and by love changes the heart, renews the will, and turns the feet to Zion's hill.
By Gerald D. Buss
Saturday, December 05, 2009
Jesus affirmed the reality (historicity) of the following people and events, often the targets of most sceptical and liberal mockery:
Matthew 19:3-6, Mark 10:5-9 - God created Adam and Eve as the first man and woman, "from the beginning of the creation;" and this was the basis for marriage.
Luke 11:51 - Abel.
Matthew 24:37-39; Luke 17:26-27 - Noah and the Flood.
John 8:56-58 - Abraham.
Matthew 10:15; Matthew 11:23-24; Luke 10:12 - Sodom and Gomorrah.
Luke 17. 28-32 - Lot and his wife.
Matthew 8:11; Luke 13:28 - Abraham, Isaac and Jacob
John 6:31, John 6:49, John 6:58 - Manna from heaven.
John 3:14 - Moses and the brazen serpent.
Matthew 12:39-41 - Jonah and the whale.
Matthew 12:42 - Queen of Sheba.
Luke 16:31 and John 5:46-47 - Moses as inspired author of the Pentateuch.
Matthew 24:15 - Daniel the Prophet as author of the Book of Daniel (citing Daniel 9:27).
Friday, November 20, 2009
Preached at Providence Chapel, London, on Tuesday Evening, July 24, 1849, by J. C. Philpot
"Blessed is the man whom thou chastenest, O LORD, and teachest him out of thy law;
That thou mayest give him rest from the days of adversity, until the pit be digged for the wicked."
What a different estimate men form of blessedness and happiness, from that which God has declared in his word to be such! If we listen to the opinions of men about happiness, would not their language be something like this– 'Happiness consists in health and strength--in an abundance of the comforts, luxuries, and pleasures of life; in an amiable and affectionate partner; in children healthy, obedient, and well-provided for in the world; in a long and successful life, closed by an easy and tranquil death.' I think a natural man would, if he did not use the very words, express his ideas of happiness pretty much in the substance of what I have just sketched out.
But when we come to what the Lord God Almighty has declared to be happiness; when we turn aside from the opinions of men, to the expressed words and revealed ways of the Lord, what do we find 'blessedness' to consist in? Who are the people that the unerring God of truth has pronounced to be blessed? "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven; blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted; blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth; blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled; blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy; blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." Matthew 5:3-11 And again, in the words of our text, "Blessed is the man whom you chasten, O Lord, and teach him out of your law." These are the unerring words of God; and by his words man will be tried. It is not the fleeting, fluctuating opinions of worms of the earth; but it is the unerring declaration of the only true God by which these matters are to be decided.
In attempting, then, this evening to unfold what the Lord has here declared to be real "blessedness," I shall,
1. First, endeavor to show in what this blessedness consists; "Blessed is the man whom you chasten, and teach out of your law."
2. Secondly, why the man thus chastened and thus taught is really blessed; "That you may give him rest from the days of adversity."
3. Thirdly, what is in preparation in the meantime for the ungodly. "Until the pit be dug for the wicked."
I. In what does this blessedness consists? Let us endeavor to look at the spiritual meaning of the words--"Blessed is the man whom you chasten, and teach out of your law." WHO IS THIS MAN? He is one whom God has taken in hand; one to whom the Lord has special purposes of mercy; a true-born child of his heavenly Parent; for "If you be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers" (there is no exception), "then are you illegitimate children, and not sons." Heb 12:8 If a man, therefore, be exempt from divine chastening, his character is drawn as with a ray of light. He may congratulate himself on exemption from trouble; he may say, 'there has no evil touched me.' But his very exemption is only a proof that he is an illegitimate child. If he were a true-born child, he would come under the rod; but not being such, he escapes these proofs of God's eternal adoption.
We may observe this naturally. The children who are at this moment disturbing us by their noise in the street, we do not chastise; they are not ours. But if you, as a parent, were to see your child making a noise in the street, or otherwise misconducting himself, you would bring him in and chastise him. He is your child; you are interested in him; you cannot let him act as vagrant children do, because he is your flesh and blood. And therefore, while you pass the rest by, as having no concern in them, you bring your own children under especial chastening because they are your own. It is so spiritually. The wild vagrants, to whom the Lord has no regard, the children of Satan, who are filling up the measure of their iniquity, have no rod of chastisement; they are left, like these poor ragged children, to their own ways. But the heirs of promise, the children of the living God, those whom he is training to be with him forever in bliss and glory, he will not allow to go on in their own ways; for them he has a rod of correction.
But, we may observe in the words before us, that the Lord puts chastening before teaching. Is there not something remarkable in this? Why should chastening precede teaching? For this reason. We have no ear to hear except so far as we are chastened. Take the case I have alluded to. Your child does something wrong. Do you instruct him first, or do you chasten him first? You chasten him first. And then, when by means of the chastisement you have brought him to submission, to a proper state of mind, you tell him how wrongly he has acted. The rod smites the body before the instruction drops into the ear. So it is spiritually. In God's dealings with his children, he chastises first; and when by his chastisement they have received an ear to hear, a conscience to feel, and a heart to embrace the truth revealed to them, he drops his instruction into their soul.
The Lord has various ways of chastising his people; but he generally selects such chastisement as is peculiarly adapted to the individual whom he chastens. What would be a very great chastisement for you, might not be so to me; and what on the other hand might be a very severe stroke to me might not be so to you. Our dispositions, our constitutions, and our experiences may all differ; and therefore that chastening is selected which is suitable to the individual. It is as though the Lord has suspended in his heavenly closet a number of rods of different sizes; and he takes out that very rod which is just adapted to the very child whom he intends to chastise, inflicting it in such a measure, at a time, and in such a way as is exactly fitted to the individual to be chastised. And here is the wisdom of God signally displayed.
1. The Lord, for instance, sees fit to chasten some in body. We find this in the Scriptures. In the book of Job especially it is mentioned--"Or a man may be chastened on a bed of pain with constant distress in his bones, so that his very being finds food repulsive and his soul loathes the choicest meal. His flesh wastes away to nothing, and his bones, once hidden, now stick out." Job 33:19-21. There we have an instance of an individual laid upon a sick bed, in pain of body, distress of mind, and chastened by his gracious Lord for his good. So we find the Apostle Paul speaking to the Corinthians, who had misbehaved themselves at the Lord's supper; "For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep." 1Co 11:30 It was their unbecoming conduct at the Lord's supper which had brought on them bodily sickness. The Lord chastened their body for the misconduct of their soul.
So in the case of Hezekiah, we find the Lord took similar measures. The prophet was sent to him with this message in his mouth, "Set your house in order, for you shall die and not live." 2Ki 20:1 Sickness took hold of him, and he was stretched upon the bed of death. But see how it worked in him! "He turned his face to the wall, and prayed to the Lord." He turned away from all human help, and fixed his eyes wholly and solely on him who is able to save. It is in sickness and affliction, oftentimes, that the Lord is pleased to manifest himself to our souls, bless us with his presence, and stir up in us a spirit of prayer. I myself am a living witness of it; the greatest blessings I have ever had, the sweetest manifestations of the Lord to my soul have been upon a sick bed. Illness is often very profitable. Bodily afflictions separate us from the world, set our hearts upon heavenly things, draw our affections from the things of time and sense, when the Lord is pleased to manifest himself in them. And yet there are other times and seasons when we are laid upon a bed of sickness, and yet no blessing is given. I remember once, after the Lord had blessed my soul upon a bed of sickness, when I got a little better, and the blessing had worn off, this thought crossed me, 'O, your spiritual state of mind was not the effect of grace; you were sick and afflicted; it was that, and not anything specially from God that brought those feelings.' Soon after, I was laid upon a bed of sickness again; had I then the same blessed feelings, the same views of Christ, the same spiritual-mindedness in my soul? Quite the contrary; all was hard, dark, dead, and barren. Then I saw that it was not the sickness that could make Christ known, loved, or precious; but the power of God made manifest in it. And thus, sometimes, we learn from our very barrenness, hardness, and deadness, profitable lessons, and are convinced thereby that we are utterly unable to raise up one spiritual feeling in our souls.
2. Others the Lord chastens in their families. Our children are very near and dear to us; they are our own flesh and blood, and touch our tenderest feelings. Now the Lord sometimes may pass by ourselves personally, and 'afflict us in our children or our partners in life'. We find this in the Scriptures. We see how Jacob suffered from his children, by losing one for a time, and others proving thorns in his side, and a grief to his soul. We see this also in David, when he wept out his soul with such bitter sorrow, "O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom; would to God I had died for you, O Absalom, my son, my son!" 2Sa 18:33 We see it in the case of Amnon and Tamar. 2Sa 13 What misery was produced by his children in his own household! We see it also in the taking away of the child which he had by the wife of Uriah the Hittite; which though it cut him to the very soul, yet he saw as the chastising hand of God for his fearful transgression.
3. Others again are chastened in their worldly circumstances. We see this in the Scriptures also. Look at Job; a man who in riches exceeded all the men of the East. But how in a moment all was struck away; his flocks, his herds, and all his possessions taken away at a stroke. Ungodly people do not see the hand of God in these things; it is all 'a chance' with them, or an 'unfortunate speculation, which did not succeed.' But when the children of God enter into speculations, or embark their money in enterprises which are not consistent; when a reverse comes, the speculation turns out to be a failure, and the money is lost, it is their blessing to receive it as a stroke from God and as a mark of divine chastisement. Their eyes are then anointed with eye-salve to see that it is a justly deserved stroke; and though it cuts them all the more deeply, yet they receive it as from the Lord, and submit to it as a dispensation of mercy, not of wrath.
4. Others I may say all in their measure, the Lord afflicts spiritually, in their souls. What I have hitherto been treating upon are mere EXTERNAL afflictions--afflictions of the body, in the family, and in circumstances. All these are the dispensations of God, and ought to be viewed as such; and when so viewed, they work together in the soul for good. They must not be put aside; we must not say, 'The hand of God is not in them; it is all a chance.'
Nothing comes to a child of God as a matter of accident or chance; it all proceeds from God, and all is dealt out in measure and for certain purposes. If the Lord touches our bodies, it is for our spiritual good; if he brings affliction through our children, it is for our spiritual good; if he afflicts us in our circumstances, it is for our spiritual good. When the eye is opened to see, the ear to hear, the heart to believe, and the conscience made tender to feel, we know and confess that these things are sent from God. Here is the difference between a believer and an unbeliever. Infidelity says 'it is a chance;' for unbelief sees the hand of God in nothing--faith says, 'it is the Lord;' for faith sees the hand of God in everything.
Now though a few may escape these outward troubles, yet there are spiritual afflictions which we cannot and must not escape. If we do escape them, woe be to us; we are only signing our death-warrant; only proclaiming aloud, 'We are illegitimate children.' If we are God's children, we shall have spiritual afflictions; and these will consist, proportionately to light and life in the conscience, in painful convictions of guilt; in deep repentance and grief of soul on account of our backslidings; in a discovery of our evil ways and crooked actions; in sorrow for the many things we have done which conscience bears witness against as sinful. The denial of answers to our prayers; the shutting up of the throne of grace to our cries; the darkness of mind that we labor under; the trying thoughts we may have at times concerning our state, or the dealings of God with our souls; the inability to raise up faith, hope, and love, in our hearts– these all are to be viewed as chastisements.
Is it not so naturally? Your child has done something wrong, and displeased you. Do you look upon him now as kindly as at other times? No! You keep him at a distance; you do not let him dine with you today; you abridge him perhaps a part of his food; you make him go to bed early and in the dark; and if you do not visit him with positive stripes, you manifest by your reserved countenance and serious look that you are displeased; you will not take him upon your knee, nor embrace him like his brothers and sisters, but send him to bed without a kiss. What are all these but marks to the child of your displeasure? These are chastisements; and if the child is tender-hearted, he will go sobbing to bed because his parent is displeased with him; for he knows he has brought this displeasure upon himself. It is so spiritually.
The Lord deals with us as a parent does with his children; he does not smile upon us, does not give us a kiss, will not speak kindly to us, or look upon us as in times past with looks of favor and love, and will not, as it seems, hear us when we call. You teach your child by similar means your displeasure. When you are reserved, and keep him at a distance, he knows the reason, and he feels the reserve as a mark of your displeasure. So it is with God. When he denies answers to our prayers; shuts up his manifested mercy; leaves us to wretched, desponding, and gloomy feelings, these are all chastisements, and are to be received as such; and when they are so received, they work good effects in the soul, for they produce submission, resignation, quietness, meekness, and humility.
In these, and other various ways, of which time will not suffice to mention the tenth part, God chastens his people. The Lord chastens those whom he loves; and "blessed is the man whom he chastens." There are many afflicted, but only few chastened--many have abundance of worldly trouble; but only God's people are really chastened, so as to see and feel the hand of God in the rod, and submit to it as such. Here is all the difference between a believer and an unbeliever, between a child of God and an infidel.
We pass on to consider the second part of the blessedness of the man whom God chastens. "And teaches him out of your law." We have just hinted at the reason why chastening precedes teaching. We have no ear for instruction until we feel the stroke of God upon us. It was so with the prodigal. Until he was brought to his right mind by strokes of hunger, he did not think of his father's house; he had no heart to return; but a mighty famine sent him home. So it is with God's children; as long as they are allowed to wander in their backslidings, they have no heart to return. But let the rod come--let them be driven home with stripes; then they have an ear to listen, while God teaches them to profit, instructs them by his blessed Spirit, and speaks into their heart those lessons which are for their eternal good.
"And teaches him out of your law." We would, I think, much err from the mind of the Spirit, if we confined the meaning of the word "law," as some do, to the law strictly and properly so called. "The law" in the Scriptures has a very wide signification; it means, in the original, instruction. The word is Torah, which signifies 'teaching' or 'direction.' And as the law given by Moses was the grand instruction that God gave to the children of Israel into his holiness and purity, the word Torah, or instruction, became fixed in a definite manner to the law as given at Sinai. But the word in itself has a far higher meaning, signifying instruction generally; and thus we find, in the New Testament, that the word "law" is not confined to the law of Moses given in thunder and lightning upon Mount Sinai. For instance, we read of "the law of the Spirit of life" in Christ Jesus, which has "made me free from the law of sin and death." Romans 8:2 The "law of the Spirit of life" there mentioned does not mean the law given on Mount Sinai. Again, "Whoever looks into the perfect law of liberty, and continues therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed." Jas 1:25 "The perfect law of liberty," does not, cannot mean the law given at Mount Sinai; it is the gospel of Jesus Christ; the instruction, the Torah, which the Spirit has given of the Lord Jesus, and therefore called "the perfect law of liberty."
So, in the Old Testament, "O how I love your law; it is my meditation all the day." Psalm 119:97 David was not meditating all the day upon the words given upon Mount Sinai; he was not utterly consumed with terrors by meditating upon the strictness and holiness of God as revealed in that law; but he was looking into the gospel, and in that law he delighted all the day, as beholding in it the glories of the Lamb.
And thus, in our text, when it says, "Blessed is the man whom you chasten, O Lord, and teach him out of your law," it does mean, I grant, in the first instance, the law strictly speaking as revealing the purity, holiness, and perfection of God; but we must not limit it, as some do, to the law definitely so called. A man, then, is blessed whom God teaches out of his law--that is, brings near those things which the law reveals, and seals them upon his heart. The law is a manifestation of God's purity, holiness, justice, majesty, greatness, and glory; and was given upon Mount Sinai in thunderings, lightnings, and earthquakes, to show forth the majesty of God. Now the Lord, in the first instance, teaches his people by showing to them out of the law his purity, holiness, majesty, the perfection of his character, his indignation against sin, and his wrath against sinners. And every feeling of guilt produced by a manifestation of God's purity, affection, uprightness, justice, wrath, indignation against sin, and direful vengeance that burns to the lowest hell-every such conviction, and every such feeling is a teaching out of his law. But there are some living souls whom God has taught, and is teaching out of his law, who because some definite words of the law have not been applied to their heart, are full of fear that they never had the sentence of the law written in their conscience.
But there is one mark, if not more, whereby we may know whether we have ever had the application of the law strictly speaking to our conscience. What is this? The law "brings bondage," that is, it generates or produces bondage in the soul. Now there may be some here this evening, who may say, 'I do not know that I ever had definite words applied to my conscience, such as, "Cursed is every one who continues not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them." But let us see whether by bringing your experience to the word of God, you cannot find that you have experienced what sometimes you do not fear have not. Have you never felt bondage? Has your soul never been shut up, and unable to come forth? Have you had no slavish fear of God? Have you never been as it were bound in fetters of iron, and felt that nothing but the mighty power of God coming into your soul could set you free? Have you had no slavish fears of death? We read, that there were some who "all their life-time" were subject to this fear. Have you had no fear of death when the cholera is going about? Have you had no dread lest that dreadful scourge might enter your door, and you might be stricken with the fearful malady? Has no groan or sigh gone up to God through the dread of it? What is this but bondage? And what brings bondage but the law?
Not the letter, but the spirit of the law--because it brings, that is, generates, as a father, in the soul, what the dead lifeless letter cannot possibly do, a spirit of bondage. If you have felt this bondage, this fear, these doubts, these manacles and chains, which your sins have wreathed round your neck, then you have been taught "out of the law;" aye, you have felt the law; for it has produced a spirit of bondage in your soul.
Let us see whether we cannot find another mark. It is this; "By the law is the knowledge of sin." Have you any knowledge of sin? Have the sins of your evil heart ever been felt? Have you ever seen the purity and perfection of Jehovah; and felt the justice of God in his holy law? Do you ever feel that had God sentenced your soul to eternal damnation, he would be just; that you had deserved it all, and brought it on your own head? Can you say, that he would be just in condemning you to the lowest hell? If you have felt this, you have been taught out of God's law; for "by the law is the knowledge of sin."
But we pass on to consider "the law," in a different point of view. The "law," as I have already noticed, signifies not merely "the law," strictly speaking as the sentence of condemnation; but it includes also the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ--"the perfect law of liberty; the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus;" that law which was in the heart of the Redeemer, when he said, "I come to do your will, O God; yes, your law is within my heart."
Now, as the Lord teaches his children "out of the law," strictly so called, so he teaches them "out of" the gospel; and to my mind there is something exceedingly sweet and expressive in the words "out of the law." It seems to convey to my mind, not only that the law is a treasure-house of wrath, but that the gospel also is a treasure-house of mercy. And as those who know most of the law are only taught "out of the law," and not the whole of the law, only a few drops as it were, out of the inexhaustible wrath of God; so out of the heavenly treasure-house of the gospel, "the perfect law of liberty," it is but a little of grace and mercy that in this life can be known. As Christ said to his disciples in promising the Spirit; "He shall take of mine, and shall show it unto you." John 16:15 He cannot take "all," and show it unto them; for none could live under the sight.
The Spirit, therefore, takes of the things of Christ, and shows here a little and there a little; some little blessedness here, and some little blessedness there; a suitable promise, a gracious testimony, a comforting text, an encouraging word, a sight of atoning blood, a smile of his countenance, a view of his Person, a discovery of his righteousness, or a glimpse of his love. This is taking of the things of Christ and revealing them to the soul. And thus, the man whom the Lord takes in hand, he teaches "out of" the gospel by making Christ experimentally known, and revealing his dying love. And thus he teaches each and all "out of his law"--both the law from Sinai, and the law from Zion.
But, observe the connection between chastening and teaching. This is what I am wishing to impress upon you. Suppose you are in a carnal state of mind; say you are a man of business, have done a good stroke today, have got something which has wonderfully pleased your covetous heart, have been carried away by some worldly project. But you have come to chapel this evening. Are you in a fit state to hear the word of God? Is the Lord about to teach you now out of the gospel? You are not the man, nor is your soul in a fit state to receive it. But suppose it otherwise. Say, the Lord has been severely chastening you of late; you are just recovering from a painful sickness; have lost a child; had an affliction in your family; something trying has happened today, yesterday, or the last week in your worldly circumstances; or the Lord has set to his hand, and wrought more powerfully upon your soul than he has for months past; you have been cut up with convictions, felt your backslidings, and could scarcely bear to creep to chapel, lest you should hear your own condemnation.
You are the very person whom God is chastening that he may teach out of his law. You were not in a fit state before to hear; you were thinking how tedious the minister was, and wondering when he would finish the sermon; your mind was full of wandering thoughts, or you were caviling at all you heard. But now you have an ear to hear; a sigh and a cry in your heart, and lips when you come to chapel; and in groaning out your petition before you come, you say, 'O Lord, will you speak one word to my soul tonight? Will you kindly look upon a poor vile backslider? O do manifest yourself to me!' This is teaching following chastening. You must have chastening first; you must first be brought to your senses, have a heart given you to feel; have many stripes laid upon you to bring your wandering feet back to the paths of righteousness; and then the gospel is for you.
The promises of mercy, the sweet invitations, the forgivenesses with God, and all the blessings which the gospel is filled with, are for those whom the Lord brings down and chastens. And therefore, there are very few people who are really in a state fit to hear the gospel, the precious love of God as revealed in the Person of Christ. This is the reason why we have so many hardened antinomians in our day; so many dry, doctrinal professors, whose lives, conduct, and conversation are disgraceful to the name they profess. It is because they are not chastened. And this makes them the bitterest enemies to real experimental truth, and to the men who speak out of the fullness of a believing, exercised heart. There is a connection, therefore, between being chastened, afflicted, exercised, and being taught "out of the law." God does not teach, and afterwards chasten for disobedience--but he first brings down the heart with labor, and then sows in it the seeds of instruction.
II. But we pass on to our second branch, which is, the reason why the Lord chastens and teaches his children--"that he may give them rest from days of adversity." There are "days of adversity" coming; and these may be more serious than any one at present expects. We may have days of great adversity and troublous times as regards the country generally. We may have persecutions. We may have calamitous times as regards business, trade, and worldly circumstances; and these things affect all men. We are so linked together, so dependent upon each other, that whatever touches one touches all. If troublous times come, they will touch the church as well as the world. What a blessing, then, for God's people, if they have a rest from the "days of adversity;" if they have a God to go to, a Jesus to lean on, a lap to be dandled in, and a bosom to pillow their aching heads.
But, supposing the political horizon is not overshadowed; supposing worldly matters are peaceable and quiet, there may be "days of adversity" of another character. You may have a long and painful sickness, be brought into very trying circumstances; you that are now in comparative comfort may be brought down to poverty; you may have a very heavy affliction in your family; and see little else but "days of adversity." These will come, and we cannot prevent them. We can no more say "the day of adversity" shall not come, than we can say, tomorrow will not be a rainy day, or that the shadow will not attend tomorrow's sunshine. The Lord, then, knowing the "days of adversity" which are in store; knowing that sickness and death are coming, has prepared a rest beforehand; "Come, my people," he says, "enter your rooms and shut the doors behind you; hide yourselves for a little while until his wrath has passed by." Isaiah 26:20
But how do we get this "rest?" By being chastened and by being taught. Until we are chastened, we make the world our home; and a very pleasant paradise it is. Our children, our friendships, our pursuits, our worldly ease, the many airy castles that we build up, are all very pleasant to us until strokes of chastisement come, and the Lord begins to afflict us in body, in family, or in soul. Yet how kind it is, and all the kinder for being painful, for the Lord to chasten us back to our true home. Our child may perhaps be away from home; there is a storm gathering; the thunder is ready to break forth; and he is about to be exposed to the lightning's flash. If he loiters, are you dealing unkindly with him if you whip him home? Is not every stroke a kindness that brings him out of the thunderstorm? It is so spiritually. The Lord sees that there is a thunderstorm gathering; the lightnings are about to flash; the rain to pour; the hail to strike. Is not every stroke a kind stroke, a stroke of love that brings the wanderer home to find shelter under God's wing until this storm be overpast? We might be wandering abroad in the world with our heads exposed to the lightning stroke; we might hear the warning peal, and be yet too far from home to get there in time; but the Lord foreseeing "the days of adversity," comes with strokes and drives us home. He will not let us lie down in the green fields and flowery meadows, and sleep under the trees.
His strokes are strokes dipped in love; and, however cutting to the flesh, if blessed by the Spirit, they are made instrumental in driving us home, bringing us to our right mind, and showing us where true rest is only to be found--in Christ, in his Person, love, blood, grace, and suitability; in all that he is and all that he has. What a wise and kind parent, then, he is to chasten us, though painful at the time, and to teach us out of his law and gospel, that he may give us rest from "the days of adversity."
III. But we come to our third point; what the Lord is preparing in the meanwhile for the ungodly. There is no chastening for them; no teaching for them; no preparing a rest for them; or preparing them for rest. What, then, is awaiting them? What a striking figure here the Lord makes use of! "Until the pit be dug for the wicked." What is the figure? Is it not this? In Eastern countries, the ordinary mode of catching wild beasts is to dig a pit, and fix sharp spears in the bottom--and when the pit has been dug sufficiently deep, it is covered over with branches of trees, earth, and leaves, until all appearances of the pitfall are entirely concealed. What is the object? That the wild beast intent upon bloodshed-the tiger lying in wait for the deer, the wolf roaming after the sheep, the lion prowling for the antelope, or the elephant breaking through the jungle, not seeing the pitfall, but rushing on and over it, may not see their doom until they break through and fall upon the spears at the bottom.
What a striking figure is this! Here are the ungodly, all intent upon their purposes; prowling after evil, as the wolf after the sheep, or the tiger after the deer, thinking only of some worldly profit, some covetous plan, some lustful scheme, something the carnal mind delights in; but on they go, not seeing any danger until the moment comes when, as Job says, "they go down to the bars of the pit." The Lord has been pleased to hide their doom from them; the pit is all covered over with leaves of trees, grass, and earth. The very appearance of the pit was hidden from the wild beasts; they never knew it until they fell into it, and were transfixed. So it is with the wicked; both with the professors and the profane. There is no fear of God, no taking heed to their steps, no cry to be directed, no prayer to be shown the way; no pausing, no turning back--on they go, on they go; heedlessly, thoughtlessly, recklessly; pursuing some beloved object--on they go, on they go; until in a moment they are plunged eternally and irrevocably into the pit!
There are many such both in the professing church as well as in the ungodly world. The Lord sees what they are, and where they are; he knows where the pit is; in what part of the wood; how situated in the jungle. God knows their steps; he sees them hurrying on, hurrying on, hurrying on. All is prepared for them. The Lord gives them no forewarning, no notice of their danger; no teachings, no chastenings, remonstrances, no frowns, no stripes; they are left to themselves to fill up the measure of their iniquity, until they approach the pit that has been dug for them, and then down they sink to the bottom!
This will never be the case with the righteous. They are forewarned; they take heed to their ways; the Lord chastens them before times; he teaches them out of his law; he gives them right and deep views of his purity and holiness; and shows them also the refuge which he has prepared for them in the love and blood of the Lamb. Thus, in "the days of adversity," they have a solemn resting-place in the bosom of God, in his covenant faithfulness and love.
Now do you lay these things to heart? How have you come to chapel this evening? What has God done for your soul? Has curiosity or some other motive brought you here? Or do you come hoping to hear that which will do you good, and be spiritually and lastingly profitable? Have you found anything spoken this evening suitable to your case and state? Can you find, looking back on the dealings of God with you in providence or grace, that he has been chastening you? Do fix your eyes, you who desire to fear God, on this mark– say to yourselves, 'Lord, have I been chastened of you? Can I see in my various afflictions the hand of God? Have they done my soul good? Have they been a voice speaking to my heart? Have they brought forth in me the fruits of holiness? Can I say, Lord, "Blessed is the man whom you chasten;" and I am that man?' If so, you are not the wicked. God is not digging a pit for you; he is chastening you before times that he may "give you rest from the days of adversity;" you have a God to go to, and a blessed bosom to lean upon when "the days of adversity" come, and the wicked fall headlong into the pit.
Preached at Providence Chapel, London, on July 28, 1850, by J. C. Philpot
"And when they came to Marah, they could not drink of the waters of Marah, for they were bitter: therefore the name of it was called Marah.
And the people murmured against Moses, saying, What shall we drink?
And he cried unto the LORD; and the LORD shewed him a tree, which when he had cast into the waters, the waters were made sweet: there he made for them a statute and an ordinance, and there he proved them,"
The children of Israel, after the flesh, were a 'typical' people; and therefore the dealings of God with them were typical and figurative of His dealings with the spiritual Israel. When we see this, and read the Old Testament Scriptures with an enlightened eye, what beauty does it add to the sacred page! We read these records then, not as so many historical documents, but as descriptive of the children of God, and of His mercy, love and grace towards them. And thus their experience becomes brought home to our own heart and our own bosom. We can see in them our own features, and read in the dealings of God with them the dealings of God with our own souls now.
I need not run through the history of the children of Israel to prove this. Every step they took is, more or less, a proof that the Lord dealt with them outwardly as He deals with his spiritual Israel inwardly. Their state, for instance, in Egypt typified the death and darkness of the people of God before they are quickened by the blessed Spirit. The Paschal Lamb of which they partook, and the blood sprinkled upon the lintel and sideposts, showed forth the redemption of Christ, and the application of His precious blood to the conscience. The passing through the Red Sea signifies the baptism with which they are baptized, when the love of God is shed abroad in their hearts by the Holy Spirit; and their seeing their enemies dead upon the seashore, signifies the rejoicing of a child of God at finding his sins cast into the sea, and overthrown into dead carcasses by the mighty power of Christ.
But we come now to a strange passage in their history. They little expected, as we should little expect, that so heavy a trial would come immediately upon the back of this astonishing deliverance. And what was this trial? "They went three days in the wilderness, and found no water." In this humid climate, we can scarcely conceive what a privation this must have been. But we would not like even in this wet climate, and at this dripping season, to be without water for three days. No water to drink, no water to wash with! But look at this vast multitude, amounting to two million, wandering in a barren desert, with a scorching sun above and parched sands beneath; men, women, children, cattle, languishing, and all but for dying of thirst! And this for three days!
One can scarcely conceive what a privation, what a scene of horror it must have been. But, at the end of three days, water is discovered. They catch a glimpse of palm trees in the wilderness, and perhaps see the glimmering of streams beneath them. You may well conceive what joy would fill the camp. We may well imagine what a universal shout of exultation there would be. What hurrying on to partake of the waters that glistened before their eye in the distance? But alas! when they came there, a further disappointment awaited them. "They came to Marah, and they could not drink of the waters of Marah." Though for three days they had been without water and were dying from thirst, yet when they came to these waters, they were so bitter and brackish, that absolutely they could not drink! What a blow! what a stroke upon stroke! This was indeed striking the dying dead. This was indeed adding grief to their sorrow and heaping calamity upon calamity.
Well, what did they do? What you and I no doubt would have done. They murmured and rebelled, and cried out against Moses for bringing them out of Egypt, with its beautiful Nile, and leading them into this wilderness, where for three days they had no water; and when they came to water, it was so bitter they could not drink. And what did Moses do? Did he join with them? Did he encourage their murmuring, or take part in their rebellion? No; he did what he ever did, and what every child of God must sooner or later do--he "cried unto the Lord." And did he "cry" in vain? Was the Lord a "God afar off, and not at hand?" Was His hand shortened that it could not save, or His ear heavy that it could not hear? No! The same almighty arm that had brought them through the Red Sea found a way of escape. "The Lord showed him a tree, which when he had cast into the waters, the waters were made sweet."
Now, upon this foundation I shall, with God's blessing, endeavor to raise a spiritual building. Four things seem to strike my mind as connected with, and flowing out of our text:
I. The bitter waters of Marah.
II. The murmuring of the people.
III. The cry of Moses.
IV. The healing of the waters.
May the Lord enable me to speak this morning in such a way as He shall condescend to bless to our souls.
I. The bitter waters of Marah.
In looking at these waters of Marah, it seems that we have to consider two things respecting them--first, what these waters spiritually and typically represented. Secondly, what is intimated by the bitterness of these waters.
We cannot understand by these waters the water of life. There is nothing analogous in the waters of Marah to the streams that gushed out of the rock when smitten by the rod of Moses; for those waters were and ever must be intrinsically sweet. Nor do they resemble the waters seen by the prophet Ezekiel that flowed out of the temple, which when they went into the salt sea healed its bitterness. Eze 47:1-9 These waters, then, cannot be the waters of life, the streams that flow out of the bleeding side of the Redeemer.
What then are they? Why, they seem to my mind to denote things in themselves perfectly suitable and adapted to our natural constitution, and yet embittered by sin; because by the bitterness that is in the waters, I mainly understand sin, and as its necessary consequence and never-failing attendant, sorrow.
When God created the world He pronounced it "very good;" the waters then were sweet. Man, in his primitive innocency, was adapted to the world in its original purity; but "sin entered into the world, and death by sin." Satan was allowed to cast bitterness into these waters; and ever since, sin and sorrow have embittered all circumstances, states and conditions, in a word, everything that would have been otherwise sweet and adapted to our present state of existence.
Let me illustrate this by a few particulars, and show how sin, and its consequence sorrow, have embittered all the streams that otherwise would have been sweet and innocent, healthful and pure.
A. First, look at the world generally. It is a fair world, even in ruins. There is a natural beauty in it, though shattered by the fall. Yet, though outwardly lovely, sin has marred all. We might, in traveling, see a beautiful prospect; a village, for instance, nestling in a valley, by some picturesque mountainside in Switzerland, or lake in the North of England, and say, "Beauty is here; and with beauty, there must be happiness and innocence." But, if we penetrated beneath the surface of this external beauty, what would we see but sin? This beautiful village is probably but a den of drunkenness and profligacy. Thus these waters, which naturally were adapted to the constitution of man, made suitable to him, and he suitable to them, have all been polluted, defiled and embittered by sin cast into them. So, wherever we go, we find sin embittering everything. There is not a country, not a town, not a village, not a family, not a bosom, in which sin is not, and which sin has not embittered--embittered by alienating it from the source of all true, real happiness.
B. Again. There is your lawful occupation in life; your business, your shop, your counting-house, your farm; the calling that God has appointed for you to gain your daily bread by. These are streams of water necessary to your actual existence. You could no more live without them than you could exist without the bread and water that perish. And yet, sin and sorrow embitter all; disappointment, vexation, temptation flow out of and mingle with everything you set your hand to. So that when you would satiate your thirst at these streams they are "waters of Marah" which you cannot drink. If not actual sin, yet disappointment will attend them. I do not believe that you can carry on your lawful calling without sin being intermingled with it. I do not mean open, allowed sin. But sin will interfere, will intrude, will creep in, will work. You can scarcely attend to your lawful calling without in some way partaking of the evil mingled with it. And if not sin, yet there will be sorrow and disappointment. If there be nothing in conscience against you in carrying on your daily business and concerns, yet there will be losses, crosses, bad debts, disappointments and vexations from others. Thus when you would take a sweet and luscious draught from the occupations of life, the cup is dashed from your lips by the bitterness of its contents.
C. Look again at the social relations of life. All are embittered. Let us picture for a few moments a young couple. How roseate is the hue which invests their life! how happy they are going to be, never dreaming of sorrow and trouble! All is bright sunshine. Let them live a few years; let them have children; let them get into middle life, and the cares of a family come upon them; and then see whether their young visions have been realized--whether all has been of a rosy color, whether dark clouds have not hovered over those domestic scenes from which they once thought to drink so much happiness. How often children grow up to be their parents' disappointment and misery! Wives and husbands, instead of being mutual sources of happiness and comfort, prove mutual plagues. Friends, who once seemed so true, turn into enemies; relations, from whom we would expect every kindness and help, grow cold or hostile. How all these domestic relations in various instances are marred and embittered by sin or sorrow! So that, when like the children of Israel, we would gladly stoop down, and drink at these sources of happiness, and they would be sources of happiness but for the marred state of the world, and the sin in men's hearts, we cannot drink the waters; they are embittered; they are "Marah."
D. And so with the human body. God made the body healthy, as He made the soul pure--but when sin entered into the soul, sickness came into the body. How many of God's people have their lives embittered through ill health, and all their pleasing prospects disappointed, broken up, crushed, and thrown down by a load of illness and bodily infirmities.
Now here are the waters of "Marah"--sorrow, vexation, bitterness, disappointment marring everything; so that we cannot drink of the otherwise sweet streams of life. And it is a mercy that we cannot. Could we drink of them we would want no other waters. Could we assuage our thirst at these earthly rills, we would want no streams of that river which "makes glad the city of God." If we could take our fill of earthly comfort and worldly happiness, we would never want to have the consolations of the blessed Spirit, or to drink out of the fullness of the Lord Jesus Christ.
But this is very disappointing. To have bitterness in everything, and bitterness in those things most from which you would gladly derive most pleasure; that directly you are looking forward to some worldly happiness, as the children of Israel hurried onward to the waters glimmering under the palm trees, yet no sooner do you come to that scene of anticipated pleasure, than you find it embittered; some disappointment, some sorrow, some vexation, some sin mars all. Is this very pleasing? Is this what nature loves? Does this go down very smoothly? Not while man is what he is. Did the children of Israel like it? No; they "murmured."
II. The murmuring of the people.
And this brings us to our second point, which is– the murmuring of the rebellious flesh against these dispensations. When the Lord is not present to bless and smile upon the soul, is it not very hard work to have so many trials, vexations and disappointments; to find everything here embittered; that God will not let you have a gourd to rejoice in; that you cannot sit down and say, "Come, now I am going to be comfortable; here is at last a little rest?" Is it not very vexatious, very disappointing, very contrary to every feeling of our natural heart, that the Lord will never let us take comfort in anything but Himself? that when we would gladly stretch forth our arm and embrace an earthly joy, there is a hand that dashes it from our lips? when we would stoop, and drink the waters that glimmer in the desert, they are so salty, brackish, and bitter, that we cannot slake our thirst at them?
1. Now, say that you have many disappointments in business. Are they pleasing? When the postman brings you a letter, for instance, full of bad news--that someone has failed who owes you a large sum of money; do you feel very comfortable under it? Is it not much against the grain? And does not this raise up in your carnal mind murmuring and fretfulness, and a rebellious feeling that you should be so hardly dealt with? You can look abroad, perhaps, and see how others get on in the world– men whom you have known in poverty riding in their carriages--and you always crossed, disappointed, ground down and everything going against you. This is not very pleasant to flesh and blood; this is contrary to nature; and therefore nature murmurs, frets, repines, rebels against these dispensations.
2. Or, you have ill health, and cannot do things as others do them--exertion is a pain to you; your nerves are shattered and your whole frame disorganized from constitutional debility; everything is wearisome--the "grasshopper a burden." You look round, and see people walking about in such health and strength, and you perhaps racked with pain, or your frame altogether shattered, and constitution gone. Why, this will raise up in the mind, at times, some very unpleasant feelings. There will be murmuring, rebellion and fretfulness against God when you see others dealt with so favorably, and you dealt with, as you think, in a way so contrary.
3. Your own family, perhaps your sons and daughters, are not what you wish them to be. You look abroad and see the sons of others steady; their daughters doing well, married and settled comfortably in life; while, as regards yourself, things are just the contrary--everything is opposed to what your nature wants, and what your carnal mind loves. And, instead of sitting down quietly, and bearing these afflictions and sorrows, there is a heaving up of the carnal mind against them, a working of rebellion, a repining, a murmuring, as though the Lord dealt with you very harshly, and nobody ever had such a weight to carry as yourself.
4. Or again, you have a continual cross, and feel a body of sin and death always plaguing you; so as never to be let alone, but are vexed and tried day after day. There is some temptation, and you entangled in it; some bait, and you entrapped; some discovery of evil in your heart which you had never seen before. And you think there never was anybody like you; so harassed, so exercised, so tried, so tempted, so cast down; having withal so little grace, so little spirituality, and finding so little in your heart of which you can say, "Thank God, I have some real religion now." Now, when the mind is thus exercised, tried and cast down with a thousand things, unless God be present, and His grace intervene, there will be much of this fretfulness, repining and murmuring in the carnal mind.
But is this all? Would it do to leave you thus? Can a living soul stand here? No! There must be something more than this. It is sad work to have nothing but bitterness and murmuring; and therefore, we will pass on to our third point; which is what a living soul sooner or later must do and does.
III. The cry of Moses.
"Moses cried unto the Lord." And this is what we do when we have no one else to go to. When we come to the waters of Marah, and find we cannot drink; when there is nothing but bitterness and disappointment, then there is at first a struggle, a murmuring, a rebelling, which only makes matters worse than before. But, in tender mercy, the Lord is pleased to raise up a sigh and a cry in the soul, and to cause supplications to go up out of the heart. But this is hard work, because it seems as though we ought to have done this before. Conscience begins to say, "Why, you only pray to God when you need Him; you ought not to have murmured and repined; you ought not to have rebelled and fretted as you have done. How can you expect God to hear you now? You have tried all you could to creep out of it, and get the yoke off your neck; and not being able to do it, then you come to the Lord."
Yet this is what we are obliged to do; and I may add, what grace enables us to do, because trials in themselves will not raise up prayer; they rather crush it. We might be in the very belly of hell, and have no prayer except God put it there into our souls. We might have blow upon blow, stroke upon stroke, but no prayer. Afflictions without the grace of God only stupefy, harden and deaden. People think sometimes, "O, when I grow old, or get ill, then I shall pray, and seek, and serve God." Why, you would find your very illness and age would only stupefy the mind; and if you were in pain, you would have little to think of but pain. Your very sufferings would only harden your heart, and stop prayer instead of encouraging it. Therefore, it is not all the afflictions we go through, which can raise up one prayer to God; they only make us fight against Him; they only make us murmur, rebel and despair. It must be 'grace in sweet operation' that softens the heart in these trials, and the Lord's pouring out upon the soul "the Spirit of grace and supplication." The two go together, enabling us to "cry."
And what a mercy it is, that in all our rebellion, and in spite of all our rebellion, there is a God to go to; that though our rebellions do and will bring a cloud upon the throne, yet they do not push Jesus off the throne. Whatever darkness, whatever confusion, rebellion may bring upon our mind, Christ is still there. It is like a London fog. When you Londoners in November are wrapped up in fog and smoke, we that live in the country are perhaps enjoying the sunshine. All your fog does not blot the blessed sun out of the sky; he is shining upon others, if he is not shining upon you. So spiritually. When we get into a fog, we think sometimes that the sun will never shine again. We judge by our feelings, and the exercises of our minds; as though now there were no Christ; as though all He had promised were false, all His mercy had failed, and there was no longer anything for the soul to rest upon.
But how blessed it is in these seasons to find a little submission and prayer; a sighing, looking, longing, hungering, thirsting, waiting upon the Lord! This is what we must do; and what we shall do, if grace be in our hearts; for without it, we cannot expect any relief.
The Lord works generally thus. He brings afflictions, and lets us feel what we are in our carnal mind under the cross, to humble us and prove us. He then raises up and draws forth a spirit of prayer in the soul; and then He answers and blesses. The very power to pray is a gleam of light upon the soul; the very pouring out of the heart brings a relief; the very sight of Christ upon his throne dispels the rebellion that works in the carnal mind. The very coming to Him as filled with all grace; the very looking unto Him, interceding for us as our Advocate with the Father, seems to drive away the clouds of darkness and rebellion. It may not be, indeed it is not a complete deliverance, but it is deliverance from rebellion and murmuring. To pour out the heart before God brings a measure of relief, as Hannah and Hezekiah found. If it does not fill the soul with joy and peace, at least it brings it out of that stupefied state in which it was sunk through rebellion; it softens the heart which before was hard; it thaws the spirit which before was frozen; it communicates contrition where before there was little else but hardness and desperation. And thus, the very power given to the soul to seek, supplicate, cry, beg and pray, though it may not bring deliverance from the trial itself, yet is a help and encouragement enabling it to bear up. A praying soul will in due time be a praising soul. He that seeks shall find; he that asks shall receive. "To him that knocks, it shall be opened." The Lord has given many sweet promises to those who seek His face.
It is not only a mercy to have a God to go to, but to have a heart to go to Him. It is an inestimable favor not only to have a throne of grace, but to have grace to go to the throne. It is not only a blessing that there is a mercy seat, but that there is mercy reaching the heart to bring us there. And when there is this real heartfelt cry, then in due time comes a blessed, gracious answer; which brings us to our fourth and last point; and that is, the healing of the waters.
IV. The healing of the waters.
Now, in the healing of the waters, we may observe certain marked steps. "The Lord," we read, "showed Moses a tree, which when he had cast into the waters, the waters were made sweet."
1. The first thing to consider is, "the tree." I need not say what this signifies. Your hearts have pronounced it already. It is the tree of life--the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is the tree; for "Cursed is every one that hangs on a tree." "He bore our sins in His own body on the tree." This is the tree--the tree of life; the cross of Jesus; salvation through blood; pardon through the atonement which He made upon Calvary's tree; reconciliation through the offering which He there once offered; for "by one offering He has perfected forever those who are sanctified."
2. But this tree was shown to Moses. It was there before; but Moses knew it not. It needed to be revealed to his eyes and heart. The tree was standing there before Moses saw it. So with us. The cross of Christ is the same, whether hidden from our eyes or not. If we are God's children, we are even now reconciled, pardoned, accepted, saved. Our salvation is already accomplished; the work is finished; everlasting righteousness has been brought in; Christ has saved us from the wrath to come. "Who has saved us, and called us."
But what we need is a discovery of this tree to our soul. It does not say that God created the tree for the first time; but that he "showed" it to Moses. He took the veil off Moses' eyes and heart, and showed him the tree. And what is this but a blessed revelation to the soul of the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ; seeing Him by the eye of faith as the Lamb of God slain from before the foundation of the world; a viewing Him by the eye of faith suspended as it were between earth and heaven, accomplishing our salvation by His own precious blood?
Now in all our murmuring, rebellion and fretfulness we do not see this. It is hidden from our eyes; and we have no union, no communion then, with a suffering Lord. If we could go to the cross, clasp it in our embrace, lay hold of a crucified Jesus, feel sweet communion with Him, gaze upon His sufferings, and see that face which was marred more than the sons of men, it would thaw away the rebellion, it would remove the murmuring, it would melt the heart down into contrition, brokenness, and love.
But we cannot see it; we only see our disappointments, our vexations, losses, crosses and sorrows. The mind is so wrapped up in darkness; there is such a fog over the soul that we can only "grope for the wall like the blind." We think ourselves harshly dealt with, wonder that God should be so unkind, and have no eyes or heart to look beyond all these things, and to see the Lord Jesus Christ reconciling us to God, and bearing our sins and sorrows in His own body on the tree. And therefore, we need it to be shown to us; we need the blessed Spirit to take of the things of Christ, and reveal them to our soul; to bring into our hearts a sight and sense of the bleeding Lamb, of the suffering "Man of Sorrows," of the crucified Immanuel.
3. But there is another step. It was not sufficient that there should be a tree, nor enough to show Moses the tree. The tree must be cast into the waters. The boughs of the tree might overshadow the streams; that did not heal them. Those too that stood on the banks of the stream might gaze upon the tree; that did not heal the waters. A further process was necessary. There was another step to be taken; and that was, the tree was to be cast into the waters. And does this not signify spiritually the bringing in of the cross of Christ into the soul; the revelation of a crucified Savior to the heart; the manifestation of Jesus in His sufferings and blood to the conscience; and this, by bringing the cross of Christ into the soul, as the tree was cast into the waters? Now nothing but this can heal the waters. But when the tree was cast into the waters, when it sank, and the waters covered in, then they were made sweet; their bitterness was taken away, and they could be safely drunk.
Let us APPLY this. I have endeavored to show you what these waters are, and how they were made bitter; and I must therefore just cast my mind's eye a little back, to show you how they are made sweet.
1. Now there are many things that are vexatious and disappointing in our daily calling. You have many things in business very plaguing, very trying. You cannot, therefore, take that pleasure in it which worldly men can; or if it much occupies your mind, you find guilt resting upon your conscience; you cannot take, as it were, a good draught of your worldly occupation, drink it down and enjoy it; but there is some disappointment, or some guilt of conscience connected with it, that when you would gladly take pleasure in it, you cannot succeed. Well, how is this to be sweetened? If there be some discovery to your soul of a precious Jesus, and you be indulged with some knowledge of, and communion with a suffering Immanuel, does not that sweeten to you your daily occupation? Does it not sanctify the lowest employment? Yes--sanctify it! Why, a man may be a garbage-collector, a chimney sweep, a nightman, and if he have the grace of God in his heart, the visitations of the Lord's presence and the bedewings of His love and favor will make this calling a holy calling, aye, much more a holy calling than many a bishop preaching in lawn sleeves, or a priest bowing before the altar. Aye, a poor old washerwoman, rubbing her stockings over her tub, may be worshiping God in spirit and in truth, and have her soul filled with happiness and holiness, when choristers and priests are mocking him with lies and hearts full of uncleanness. Thus, washing stockings may be a holier employment than chanting psalms. It is not church or chapel that makes us holy, but the blessed Spirit making our bodies His temple.
2. Or you may almost constantly have bad health, which may be your daily cross; and when the Lord does not favor you with His presence, a very hard cross it is to carry. But suppose the Lord is pleased to bless your soul, lead you to Jesus, give you communion with Him, show you the sufferings of "the Man of Sorrows," and that you have a saving interest in His precious blood and love--is not the bitter water sweetened? Can you not then bear your aches, pains and infirmities? Do you even see good springing out of your afflicted body; and would sooner have sanctified illness than unsanctified health?
3. Or your "house," like David's, does not "grow" as you wish. You have rebellious children, dissolute sons, carnal daughters, servants that plague your life out; with other domestic things that try your mind; and it seems as though you were always grieved and vexed. Well now, if your soul were blessed, watered, sanctified with some of the manifestations of the dying love and atoning blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, do you think it would sweeten even these waters? If you felt Jesus to be your brother, and God your father, would you not be so swallowed up in this spiritual relationship, that you could say, "As to my worldly relatives, my earthly ties, compared with all this, what are they? Jesus is more precious to me than all worldly things--than husband, wife, or children." Is not this sweetening the bitter waters?
4. Or, if sin has marred everything in your soul, made you a wretch, given you a daily cross continually, troubles your mind, and subjects you, as it does all the children of God, to a constant exercise from the workings of evil in your carnal heart, and your spirit is plagued with it day and night, what then is to sweeten these bitter waters--these waters of Marah--but the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ? Pardoning love, atoning blood, a sight of Jesus, an embracing of Him as our all in all, when felt, is a casting of the tree of life into the bitter waters; and when the tree is cast into the bitter waters, they are healed. Now you can drink; you can attend to your lawful calling; you may go about your daily duties; you can enjoy your family and home relationships; aye, and have sweetness in your soul amid all your sins and sorrows, when you realize anything of this grace of the Lord Jesus Christ as sweetening every bitter draught.
5. But there is one draught to come, which in bitterness exceeds all, and that is, the bitter draught of death. How is that bitter water to be sweetened? Die you must, and none know how soon. We know not the circumstances of our death--what long illness, what pain, langour, or suffering may attend it; or what the state of our minds may be when death seems to draw near and hold us in his grasp. This is a bitter draught, and how is it to be sweetened? By looking back to a well-spent life? By thinking of the duties you have discharged, the very religious part you have played, your being a member of a Christian church, having attended a certain chapel, prayed and read, and so on? Why all these things, if only these, would but embitter the draught more, because you would say, "I have been all this, and done all this, and where is my poor soul now?" Nothing but the casting in of the tree of life, the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ into these bitter waters can sweeten them.
Many saints--all saints, I may say in their degree--have found these bitter waters sweetened; and though they shrank from the draught, yet when it touched their lips it went down like honey; it was sweetened by the manifestations of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the shedding abroad in their soul of His dying love.
Now, do you not see how needful it is, to find the waters bitter, that you may have them sweetened? Suppose you were to go through life with no bitterness, no sorrows, no disappointments, no vexations, no temptations, no exercises--might you not drink of these waters until you burst?
There might have been even a temporal mercy to the children of Israel in finding these waters bitter. If, after wandering three days in the wilderness, they had found them sweet, they might have drunk of them so immoderately as to have injured them, and perhaps fatally; there might therefore have been a mercy even in the embittering of the waters before they were sweetened. The water having being bitter, they would drink cautiously for fear of the bitterness returning. Well, so spiritually. If you were to have your own way, your own will, and enjoy what your nature cleaves to, what would you be? What sort of a Christian would you be? Where would be the love of God in your soul? Where would there be any experience either of mercy or judgment? Where any sighs or cries? Where any praises or blessings? You would live and die without God. But when everything is embittered by sin or sorrow, and the Lord does not let us do what we would, but mars all sources of earthly happiness, then we gladly turn to Him. And when He is pleased to drop a little measure of His grace and mercy into the soul, then these bitter waters are sweetened and healed; and you may drink safely of them.
And there is no other way. You may try a thousand ways; you may attempt to doctor the waters; put sugar or honey into them; you may try your best. These waters cannot be sweetened by sugar or honey--they can be sweetened only by the tree of life, the cross of Jesus, the manifestation of dying love, the application of atoning blood. Nothing short of this--nothing but this, can ever heal the bitterness; and to disguise the taste will only eventually make the bitter taste more bitter still.
Then, it is your mercy to have your daily draught of bitter things; to find life embittered, health embittered, family embittered, business embittered, your own soul embittered; so as to lead you to say, "Call me not Naomi, but Marah; for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me."
It is your mercy to be a "Marah." It is a mercy to weep bitter tears, to have bitterness of soul, and many griefs and exercises, when they lead us to see and feel that there is only one thing which can sweeten our trials, the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ, under the teaching of God, to embrace and cleave to that, and not be satisfied without its sweet enjoyment and blessed manifestation.
Sunday, November 15, 2009
Good works are works of obedience done by true believers. Such works are good, not because they are perfect, for even our “good works” fall short of God's perfect holiness and righteousness. They are good, not because they make up any part of the righteousness by which we are justified before God. This is only by the work of Christ on the cross. They are good for the following reasons:
(1) Strictly speaking, they are not OUR works at all but GOD’S WORKS in and through us as they are the fruit of the Holy Spirit who indwells us and works in us to bring forth fruit unto God (John 3:21; Romans 7:4-6; Galatians 2:20; Galatians 5:22-26; Ephesians 2:10).
(2) They are done by those who have been justified by the grace of God in Christ, therefore, not only are our persons washed in the blood of Christ, but also our works (1 John 3:12).
(3) They are the evidence of saving faith by which we look to and rest in Christ for all salvation. All who truly believe in Christ repent of ever thinking that our works could save us or earn God’s favor and blessings for us (Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5).
(4) They are motivated by grace, love, and gratitude to God for all salvation freely given to us in and by Christ. Faith works by love, not seeking salvation or any part of it based on our works, but motivated by God’s grace and our gratitude for all He has freely given us in and by Christ (2 Corinthians 5:14).
(5) They are aimed toward God’s glory, to show forth His praises in our salvation by grace in and through the Lord Jesus Christ (Matthew 5:16). Good works are not done to draw attention to ourselves but lead men to Christ for salvation.
By Bill Parker
Sunday, November 01, 2009
The religion of men
With only one exception, every religion that has ever existed in this world maintains that the way to salvation is through good works. Their view of what constitutes salvation may differ (some may see it as a right relationship with God; or attaining to ones "higher self;" or a positive relationship with the universe; or access to heaven and bliss); however, the underlying way in which they all aim to obtain salvation is always the same – through their own dead works.
These religions all maintain that the exercise of the will; the performance of good works; the abstention from evil deeds; the improvement of character, thought and conduct; and/or the performance of certain religious rituals, observances, and other duties are all necessary factors in initiating their salvation, and often, in preserving their salvation.
The specific works at issue will vary from religion to religion, as will their opinions on what constitutes necessary moral reform, religious observance and duty, etc. However, if you strip away the specifics of these things, the core foundation is always the will and work of man. Likewise, the books they deem holy will vary; as will the names of their religious "holy men;" and even the names of their god or gods. Nonetheless, the works they have in view; their "holy" books and men; and their false gods will always point them back to self – and what they must think, say, or do to get right with the divine.
As a result, we see:
Talmudists (modern-day followers of the Jewish religion) attempting to keep the Old Testament law and otherwise working and exercising their fallen will in an attempt to get saved;
Arminians, Romanists, and all other so-called "free-will christians" going about "making a decision for Christ;" "accepting Jesus into their heart," "saying the sinners prayer," and otherwise working and exercising their fallen will in an attempt to get saved;
Muslims keeping the Islamic/Sharia law, performing the Hajj, praying towards Mecca, and otherwise working and exercising their fallen will in an attempt to get saved;
Hindus/Buddhist/Taoist etc., performing various rituals, observances, acts of self-denial, acts of obedience to their moral codes, and the exercising of their fallen will to reach their desired religious ends; and
Every other religionist likewise implementing their own rules, belief systems, acts of obedience, and manifestations of will-worship, that they deem necessary to reach their desired religious end.
The Religion of God
As stated above, there is one exception and that exception is Christianity. True, biblical, Christianity is the only religion that states that your best efforts at moral reform and religious observance, if aimed at forming the basis of your salvation, serves only to further distance you from God. God's word declares that exercises of the will and moral and religious activity (collectively known as works of the law) only serve to bring you closer to the pit of hell if you believe that these things can do anything to initiate, preserve, or improve upon salvation. The true Gospel (as opposed to the free-will counterfeits that abound in our day) declares that the Lord Jesus Christ completed all that was necessary for the salvation of His people. He performed all the work required to satisfy the divine law, justice, and wrath of God. He left nothing undone, no aspect of a sinner's salvation depends on something that they must do (as if to make up for something that the Lord Jesus Christ could not, would not, or otherwise did not do to obtain full pardon for His people).
True Christianity is not an "Ivory Soap" religion; it isn't 99.44% God's work, and 0.56% percent our own. Salvation is either all of God, as in one-hundred percent, or it is a damnable lie that cannot save anyone. Thus, any attempt to add ones own works into God's plan of salvation (whether the works be mental, verbal, or physical), is tantamount to attempting to steal the glory due to Christ and Him alone. It is tantamount to declaring Christ's blood common, impotent, and insufficient for the cause. Finally, it is tantamount to declaring the Lord Jesus Christ a liar, and declaring that the work wasn't really finished when Jesus declared "It is Finished."
By Curt Wildy
Sunday, October 25, 2009
In these days of boasted liberality, it may appear critical and contentious to oppose with zeal the errors of men who have acquired a name in the Christian world. The mantle of charity, it will be said, ought to be thrown over mistakes that have resulted from a free and impartial investigation of truth, and if not wholly overlooked, they should be noticed only with a slight expression of disapproval. Such, however, was not the conduct of the Apostle Paul.
He spared neither churches nor individuals, when the doctrines they maintained tended to the subversion of the Gospel; and the zeal with which he resisted their errors was not inferior to that with which he encountered the open enemies of Christianity. He affirms that the doctrine introduced into the Galatian churches was "another gospel," and twice pronounced a curse against all by whom it was preached.
Instead of complimenting the authors of this corruption of the Gospel as only abusing in a slight degree the liberty of free examination, he decides that they should be cut off as troublers of the churches. Let not believers be more courteous in expressing their views of the guilt and danger of corrupting the Gospel, than faithful and compassionate to the people of Christ who may be injured by false doctrine. It is highly sinful to exchange compliments at the expense of truth.
The awful responsibility of being accessory to the promotion of error is strongly expressed by the Apostle John also. "If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God-speed; for he that biddeth him God-speed is partaker of his evil deeds."
By Robert Haldane
Monday, October 19, 2009
"And I am sure that, when I come unto you, I shall come in the fulness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ."
The "fullness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ" is the fullness of salvation in Him and by Him as the crucified, resurrected Redeemer, the one Mediator between God and men.
This "fullness" is a comfort to God's people. It binds us together in the simplicity of Christ. God the Holy Spirit will never take any truth of Scripture and use it to divide or confuse brethren in the church. He is the Comforter who continually convicts us of sin and continually drives us to the crucified, risen Christ for all comfort, peace, and unity. The plain and simple preaching of the Gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit will always inspire unity, peace, and growth in the church. Divisions and confusion are the workings of sinful, proud men, not God. Men will constantly raise issues to add on to the simplicity that is in Christ. They will confuse and complicate matters, but the simple Gospel remains the same. It never changes. It is the revelation of the glorious Person and finished work of Christ on the cross to save His people from their sins. It is the revelation of the "righteousness of God" which is Christ's obedience unto death, the shedding of His precious blood to satisfy God's justice and fully pay our sin-debt. It is the truth that God is just to justify the ungodly based solely upon the righteousness of Christ imputed (charged) to the accounts of His people. God the Holy Spirit proceeds forth from the Father and the Son to impart the resurrected, spiritual life of Christ to His people in the new birth. He teaches us of our utter depravity and impotence to save ourselves by our best works. He slays us by the law of God as He shows us that the law can only condemn us based on our best efforts to obey. He drives us to Christ and Him alone, to plead His righteousness alone, for our whole eternal salvation. We see by His invincible power that if we are to be saved it is totally of God's free and sovereign grace and mercy in Christ.
What a simple but glorious message this is!
By Bill Parker
For He hath made Him to be Sin for us; who knew no Sin: That we might be made the Righteousness of God in Him.
(2 Corinthians 5:21)
1. His miraculous Conception in the Womb of the Blessed Virgin. Christ not being conceived in a natural, but supernatural Manner, he did not partake of our natural Corruption. It was impossible he should, because he was the supernatural Production of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the Power of the Highest shall over-shadow thee: Therefore also, that Holy Thing which shall be born of thee (Luke 1:35). This was an absolutely new Thing, the like was never before, nor ever will be. Behold a new Thing do I create, a woman shall compass a Man, i.e. a male Child by Conception, through the Agency of the divine Spirit. To us a Child is born, to us a Son is given. This was plainly a new Creation. The human Nature of our Lord being produced by the Exertion of the Power of the Spirit of God, no moral Taint or Impunity could attend it. For, the Holy Spirit could not give Subsistence unto an unholy Nature.
2. The human Nature of Christ was replete with all the Gifts and Graces of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of the Lord God was upon him (Isaiah 61:1). And the Father gave not the Spirit by measure unto him. The Superaddition of the Gifts and Graces of the Spirit unto the Purity of Christ's Nature, rendered it impossible that he should know sin. He having all the Gifts and Graces of the holy Spirit in their utmost Plenitude and Perfection, superadded unto the Purity of his Nature, nothing of Evil could possibly take Place in him: Such as the holy Spirit formed him, in the Virgin's Womb, such he infallibly preferred him, by his continual Presence with him, in the fullness of all his Gifts and Graces.
3. The human nature of Christ hath its Subsistence in his Divine Person. That Nature which was miraculously produced by the Power of the Holy Ghost, the Son of God took into a personal Union with himself. He assumed it to be his own in a peculiar manner that it might be at his disposal, and always under the direction of his divine Will. The human Will, and the divine Will of our Saviour are, and eternally will be distinct; but his Will as Man is in absolute Subjection to, and in all Instances, acts under the Direction of his divine Will. And, therefore, it is not possible that he should ever know Sin. Moral evil can never take place in a Nature which is ineffably united with the Person of the Son of God.
By John Brine - 1756
"But we have this treasure in earthen vessels."
(2 Corinthians 4:7)
Do not be surprised if you feel that in yourself you are but an earthen vessel-if you are made deeply and daily sensible of your frail body. Do not be surprised if your clay house is often tottering-if sickness sometimes assails your mortal tabernacle-if in your flesh there dwells no good thing; if your soul often cleaves to the dust-and if you are unable to retain a sweet sense of God's goodness and love. Do not be surprised nor startled at the corruptions of your depraved nature-at the depth of sin in your carnal mind-at the vile abominations which lurk and work in your deceitful and desperately wicked heart.
Bear in mind that it is the will of God that this heavenly treasure which makes you rich for eternity, should be lodged in an earthen vessel. We have ever to feel our native weakness-and that without Christ we can do nothing-that we may be clothed with humility, and feel ourselves the chief of sinners, and less than the least of all saints.
We thus learn to prize the heights, breadths, lengths, and depths of the love of Christ, who stooped so low to raise us up so high!
By J.C. Philpot
Friday, October 16, 2009
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.
It is certainly not unreasonable to expect a sinner, who has been freely and unconditionally pardoned, redeemed, forgiven, justified, sanctified, who has been given the fulness of righteousness, the whole inheritance of grace, the complete privilege of fellowship with God, (and all through the substitutionary obedience and death of the Lord Jesus Christ), to love, serve, and worship the God who granted all this out of His sovereign will.
By Bill Parker
Monday, October 12, 2009
Preached at North Street Chapel, Stamford, Jan. 9, 1850, by J. C. Philpot
"My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations;
Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.
But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing."
A singular race of men lived in the middle ages called Alchemists--a name still retained in the words "chemist" and "chemistry"--who spent their money, broke their spirits, and wasted their lives in a most unwearied search after three things--First, a medicine that would cure all diseases, which they termed a "panacea;" secondly, a tincture, or, to use their language, an "elixir vitac," that would prolong life to an indefinite period; and thirdly, a powder, styled the "philosopher's stone," which would transmute lead and other base metals into gold. I need not tell you that all their laborious researches, which they pursued for several centuries, were utterly fruitless, and that as far as any satisfactory result was obtained, they might as well have tried to spin ropes out of sand, weave stockings out of gossamer threads, or twist clouds into ladders to reach the moon. Had they even succeeded, the results would have been full of vexation and disappointment. If they could have found a medicine to cure all diseases, would that have staved off old age and its attendant infirmities? If they could have prolonged life to an indefinite period, would not the grave sooner or later have closed over its victim? And if they could have changed tons of lead into gold, either the expense of the process would have swallowed up all the profits, or the abundance obtained by a cheap manufacture would of itself have destroyed its value when made.
But what they could not find in chemistry, is to be found in the gospel. Nature, however tortured in the furnace, could work no such miracle as they sought to wrest from her bosom; but grace freely and without constraint has worked and still daily works them. There is a medicine which in the hands of Jehovah-rophi, the great Physician Ex 15:26, cures all diseases and dispels all complaints. As David speaks--"Who heals all your diseases," Ps 103:3 And what is this "panacea?" The precious blood of Christ, which "cleanses from all sin." Is not sin a disease? And if this precious blood cleanse from all sin, must it not be a universal medicine, and all the more valuable as curing soul disease, which must be infinitely more deadly and destructive than any bodily malady? Disease struck down the alchemist amid his extracts and essences, and with all the more deadly stroke from his sacrificing his own health in the vain attempt to cure other's sickness. But our blessed Physician has not only revealed and brought to light an infallible medicine, but himself applies it with his own hands and makes it effectual to a perfect cure. And is there not in the same blessed Jesus the true miraculous panacea of life? What did he say to the woman of Samaria? "Whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water, springing up into everlasting life." Joh 4:14.
The alchemist only sought to add a few more years to human life; but Jesus gives life for evermore. And is not his grace the true "philosopher's stone," transmuting by miraculous agency leaden afflictions into golden consolations, earthly miseries into heavenly mercies, legal curses into gospel blessings, and vile sinners into precious saints? Thus the delusive dreams of the alchemists have become solid realities, and as far exceeding what they toiled and toiled in vain to find, as eternity excels time, and heaven surpasses earth.
One of these miracles of grace we find in our text--"My brethren," says James, "count it all joy when you fall into temptations." What a miracle must that be when a man can take into his hands a load of temptations and trials, and, by an act of faith, transmute them into joy! If you could take up a piece of lead, and by putting a powder upon it and holding it for a few minutes in a furnace, change it into a solid lump of gold, would that be a greater miracle than turning light afflictions into an eternal weight of glory? How this is done we shall, I hope, with God's blessing, see from the words of our text, in opening up which I shall direct your minds to four leading features which seem to me stamped upon them:
I. First, the "diverse temptations" into which the people of God "fall."
II. Secondly, the effect of falling into diverse temptations--that it tries faith, and that "the trying of faith works patience."
III. Thirdly, the apostolic counsel, "Let patience have her perfect work," that the saint of God "may be perfect and entire, lacking nothing."
IV. Fourthly, the transmuting effect of grace enabling the tried and tempted family of God to "count it all joy" when they fall into diverse temptations.
I. The "diverse trials and temptations" into which the people of God "fall."
I must, however, with God's blessings, before I plunge into my subject, attempt to explain as plainly and as concisely as I can the precise meaning of several words in our text, that we may have a clearer view of the mind and meaning of the Holy Spirit in the passage before us.
The word translated "temptations," embraces in the original a wider field of experience than the English term conveys. We must, therefore, enlarge the idea so as to embrace "trials" also; for the original word means not merely "temptations," but includes also what we understand by the term "trials." We must also further enlarge the meaning of the word "diverse;" for the term in the original means not only diversified, various, of different kinds, but also many in number. So that we may thus enlarge our text, in perfect consistency with the mind of the Holy Spirit--"Count it all joy when you fall into many and various trials and temptations." Thus we see that the words in this enlarged sense comprehend all the trials and all the temptations, however numerous, however diversified, that the saints of God may fall into. Were it otherwise, were the text at all restricted, it would not apply to all the living family of God. Unless, for instance, it comprehended every trial, it might not comprehend your trial; unless it included every kind of temptation, it might not include your peculiar temptation; and thus you as well as many who are deeply tried and peculiarly tempted, might be shut out of all the benefit and blessing contained in it.
I must also drop a word of explanation on the expression "fall into," for there is something very significant in the idea conveyed by it. The idea is of a sudden fall into an unexpected danger, as, for instance, of a traveler falling into an ambush of robbers; for the Lord uses exactly the same word when he speaks in the parable of the man who went down from Jerusalem to Jericho and "fell among thieves." Lu 10:30. He was journeying onward, as he thought, safely; but all of a sudden, he fell into an ambush of thieves, who surrounded him, stripped him, wounded him, and left him half dead. Or the expression may refer to the idea of a ship steering its onward course with apparent safety, and suddenly striking on a reef of rocks, or caught in a whirlpool, for we have the same exact word used of the ship which conveyed Paul to Italy; "And falling into a place where two seas met, they ran the ship aground." Ac 27:41. Thus the word "fall into" diverse temptations has a peculiar significance, as expressing to the very life the way in which the saints of God often most suddenly and unexpectedly fall into the numerous and various temptation and trials which lie as if in the ambush as so many robbers, or lurk unseen as rocks and quicksands in the voyage of life. For you will bear in mind that the saint of God is both a traveler and a voyager. He has a way to tread, a road to travel in--the strait and narrow way, that leads to eternal life; and he has a voyage to make, for--"The Christian navigates a sea, Where various forms of death appear;" and it is "those that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in deep waters, who see the works of the Lord and his wonders in the deep." Ps 107:23-24. The road in itself is rough and rugged, and the sea stormy and boisterous; but it is the perils of the way--"The rocks and quicksands deep. That through the passage lie"--in other words, the trials and temptations spread through the course, which make the journey and the voyage so difficult and so dangerous.
But let us look at some of these dangers and perils, these "diverse TRIALS" into which the family of God fall. Well may they be called "diverse," or many and various, as we have explained the word, for they spring from such numerous and different sources; but I shall only name four.
1. From above;
2. from beneath;
3. from without;
4. from within.
1. Some are from ABOVE. "The Lord," we are expressly told, "tries the righteous." "Search me, O God, and know my heart," says the Psalmist; "try me, and know my thoughts." The trials with which God himself tries his people are not only numerous and various, but for the most part of a very painful and perplexing nature, yet all precisely adapted to the nature of the case and exactly suited to the state of the person tried, as being planned by unerring wisdom, and weighed, measured, and timed by infinite love. Thus, as the God of providence, as the Maker of our bodies as well as the Creator of our souls, as the God of our families who gives and takes at will the fruit of the womb, some of his children he tries with poverty, others with sickness, others with taking away the desire of their eyes at a stroke, or cutting off the tender olive plants which have sprung up round about their table and twined round every fiber of their heart.
How sudden also, how unexpected the trials! Heavy losses in business, deprivation of a situation, a sweeping away of the little all--the savings of a life--by some fraud or failure, trick or treachery, riches making themselves wings and flying away, and poverty and need coming in as an armed man to plunder the wreck; how suddenly do such strokes come! Sickness, also, and disease, how swift their attack! We are at present in a very sickly season. Illness surrounds us on every side. New complaints, such as the fearful disease diphtheria, or revived maladies as small pox, are spreading far and wide, and making all tremble for themselves or their families; Both these diseases were then very prevalent, and as the saints of God are not exempt from their share in these afflictions, many who fear his great name are either themselves stretched on beds of languishing and pain, or are watching by the side of afflicted relatives and dying children. How suddenly, also, trials of various kind come! In one day Job, "the greatest of all the men of east," lost all the substance which God had given; and the father in the morning of ten living children sat in the evening in his lonely house childless and desolate. How labor pangs fell suddenly on Rachel, and the impatient mother who had cried out "Give me children or else I die," expired under the load of her coveted burden!
But these and all other temporal trials, though at times very severe to the flesh--though they need much grace to endure them with patience and submission--though often aggravated by our own fretfulness, and used as weapons by unbelief and Satan acutely to distress the mind; yet are they of little real significance when compared with SPIRITUAL TRIALS which sink deep into a man's very soul. These, then, are the sharpest trials among those which come from above. And among them we may place as the keenest of all the hidings of God's face, as a mark of his displeasure. How David, Heman, Jeremiah, Jonah, and other Bible saints mourned and lamented under these hidings of the Lord's countenance--"You hid your face and I was troubled." Ps 30:7. "Lord, why do you cast off my soul? why do you hide your face from me?" Ps 88:14. To a saint of God, who has ever experienced the lifting up of the light of the Lord's countenance, nothing is more painful and trying than the Lord hiding his face; for then all his comfort withers--his very evidence appear gone--the former tokens for good are surrounded with a dark cloud, and the felt displeasure of the Lord seems more than he can bear. But the blessed Lord himself drank of this bitter cup when he cried out--"My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" And we must suffer with him if we are to be glorified together.
But the Lord also "tries the righteous" by laying bare, and thus discovering to them the secret iniquities of the heart. It was so with Hezekiah, of whom we read--"Howbeit in the business of the ambassadors of the princes of Babylon, God left him to try him, that he might know all that was in his heart." 2Ch 32:31. So the Lord, to strip us of our own pride--to crush our vain confidence--to show us that all our strength is weakness, and that grace must freely sanctify as well as fully save, subdue sin as well as pardon it--often leaves us to the discovery of what we are in the Adam-fall. This is "searching Jerusalem with candles" Zep 2:12; for "the spirit of man," that is the new man of grace, "is the candle or lamp of the Lord, searching all the inward parts of the heart." Pr 20:27. "I the Lord search the heart; I try the reins." Jer 17:10.
As, then, "in his light we see light," and "all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light" Ps 36:9 Eph 5:13, sin after sin becomes discovered; and the teaching of the Spirit making the heart soft and the conscience tender, the soul is painfully and acutely tried by seeing and feeling these inward abominations. How markedly we see this in Job! "When he has tried me," said he, "I shall come forth as gold" Job 23:10; but in the furnace what a discovery was made of the corruptions of his heart, which before were to himself unsuspected and unknown! They had not escaped the searching eye of Omniscience; but they had much escaped the eye of the most perfect and upright man, according to God's own testimony, who then dwelt upon the earth. When, however this eminent saint of God was tried by afflictions and desertions, pain of body and agony of mind, then the deep and foul corruptions of his heart become manifest, and the most rebellious and unbecoming expressions found vent through his lips. You may think harshly of Job; but the greatest saint, the most highly favored Christian put into the same furnace, would behave no better than he. If the Lord lay "his left hand under the head," the sharpest temporal trials can be patiently, even gladly borne. All afflictions become light if "his right hand embrace" the soul. So 2:6. But if he withdraw his presence, shut out prayer, withhold the light of his countenance, and leave us to the workings of our corrupt heart, what can be the outcome but fretfulness and rebellion, murmuring thoughts, unbelief, and self-pity?
2. Other trials of God's saints are from BENEATH. We cannot explain the deep mystery why the Lord should allow Satan to retain such power after Jesus bruised his head so effectually upon the cross, after he led captivity captive, and spoiled principalities and powers, casting them down from their seat of eminence, and making a show of them openly. That Satan should still be allowed to exercise such sway in this lower world, and even exercise his power against the saints who are dear to Christ as the apple of his eye--surely, this is a mystery we cannot now fathom. But we know the fact from the authority of Scripture, the testimony of the saints, and our own personal experience, that the Lord does, for his own wise purposes, permit Satan very much to harass and distress the soul's of God's people. There is also this peculiarity in the temptations of Satan, that as he works by them on our carnal mind, we cannot often distinguish them from the sins of our own heart. We see this in Satan's tempting David to number the people, and as strikingly in the passionate exclamations of Job. These good men did not see the tempter, though his hot breath inflamed their mind. As in a forge or foundry, the blazing coals or molten iron are seen, but not the hidden tube through whose sustained blast "the melting fire burns;" so many a vile thought, infidel suggestion, or horrible idea blaze up in the heart, blown into a flame through the black tube of the Prince of darkness.
3. Other trials, again, arise from WITHOUT. There are few saints of God who in their passage through life have not had to suffer much from outward foes. Open persecution assails some; secret slander and misrepresentation attack the character and wound the mind of others. Their best friends, as they once thought them, have sometimes proved the most cruel enemies. Where they expected nothing but sympathy and kindness, they have met with little but harshness and neglect. How acutely Job felt this when he complained, "To him that is afflicted pity should be showed from his friend." But instead of pity, his "brethren dealt deceitfully as a brook" dried up by the summer sun, to which "the troops of Tema looked" for supply, but it had "vanished what time it had waxed warm" Job 6:14-20. David had a Saul, a Doeg, and an Ahithophel; and a greater than David a Judas who kissed but to betray. Micah warns us against our fellow men; "The best of them is as a briar; the most upright is sharper than a thorn hedge." "Trust not in a friend; put not confidence in a guide." Mic 7:4-5. And Jeremiah says--"Cursed be the man that trusts in man and makes flesh his arm." Jer 17:5. In the face of such testimonies need we wonder that false friends are often greater trials than open foes? "Save me from my friends!" has been the bitter cry from many a heart.
4. But after all, our acutest trials are from WITHIN. Many who in the providence of God are comparatively exempt from severe outward trials, suffer an internal martyrdom. A heavy storm may be raging in the air; sleet, and snow, and hail, driven by a keen east wind, may darken the sky; and you in your warm room may see some poor traveler pelted by the pitiless storm. But you, though under shelter, may be racked with bodily pain, or be dying of slow disease, or be inwardly crushed by mental grief and sorrow. What is his trial compared with yours? What are fingers chilled with cold, compared to hands burning with fever?
What is a sprinkling of snow on the clothes to a load of ice on the heart; or floods of rain without to a flood of passionate grief within? Thus outward trials are severe to the eye, but inward trials are severe to the heart. Poverty, sickness, bereavements, persecutions, do not crush and break the heart like guilt and remorse, the terrors of the Almighty, and the pangs of hell.
But let us now take a glance at the "diverse TEMPTATIONS" into which the people of God fall, as distinct from the trials which lie in their path. There are many saints of God whose life is a series of outward trials; and there are others who know less of external trial, but more of internal temptation. The Lord arranges every lot, for though it seems casually "cast into the lap, yet the whole disposing thereof is of the Lord." Pr 15:33. He appoints to every one of his children the peculiar path which he has to tread, and the number and weight of the burdens which he has to carry. Whatever trial, therefore, or temptation comes, it is of the Lord--either indirectly by permission, or directly by visitation. Many appear to pass through life without any deep acquaintance with temptations. Job's friends, though good men, seem to have had little or no experience of them; while Job, Heman, Asaph, Jeremiah, and Jonah were distracted by them. The same difference exists now.
Viewing, then, "temptations" as distinct from "trials" we may divide them into two leading branches--temptations which distress, and temptations which allure. The former are the more painful, but the later are the more perilous.
1. Temptations which DISTRESS.
You might have walked for some time in the ways of the Lord without any deep experience of the infidelity, blasphemy, rebelliousness, enmity, and horrid wickedness of your fallen nature. This being the case, you were secretly lifted up with pride and self-righteousness. You had not yet had that deep discovery of yourself which was needful to humble you in the dust. You did, it is true, look in some measure to the Lord Jesus Christ, for salvation, but not knowing your utter ruin and the desperate wickedness of your heart, you looked with but half a glance; though you took hold of him, it was but with one hand; and though you walked with him, it was but with a limping foot. The reason was that temptation had not yet shorn your locks, bound you with fetters of brass, and put you to grind in the prison house.
But you suddenly fell into one of these "diverse temptations." I will merely name two as specimens of their nature. Infidelity assailed your mind all in a moment as with a cloud of the thickest, densest darkness. A veil was at once cast over the Scriptures, for you could not even believe them to be true. Objection after objection started up, and you shuddered with horror lest you should live and die a confirmed infidel. O what a trial was this! I have been here, and know what work it makes. "If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?" We reject the thought with horror, fly back to past experiences, muster up all our evidences, think of the faith and hope of departed saints, cry to God for help to believe; but still the poisoned arrow is rankling in the heart.
Or you may have been tempted to open blasphemy--even to that dreadful crime of blaspheming God. Job and Jeremiah were thus tempted, and many a child of God has been pursued night and day with the same horrible temptation. But what an evidence it is of the deep corruption of the human mind and the power of Satan that people, say tender females, who hedged in by the restraints of society, education, and morality, have never dropped an unbecoming expression from their lips, or scarcely heard one uttered by others, may yet be assailed, when called by grace, by the most horrid temptations to blasphemy, from the very thought of which their natural feelings revolt, and of which they would have deemed themselves utterly incapable. I have known such cases, and therefore name them, that if any here present are passing through this "fiery trail," they may not be utterly cast down as though some strange thing has happened to them. 1Pe 4:12. Many object to such things being even spoken of; but their very mention as experienced by those who fear God has sometimes put the temptation to flight, or abated its power.
But what a proof of the corruption of man--what an evidence of the power of Satan! I have stood by the sea shore and seen it spread out as calm as a mirror; and I have sailed on its bosom when not a breeze ruffled its face. But I have seen it in a storm when its billows rolled in full of foam and fury; and I have sailed over it when wave after wave dashed over the deck. But it was the same sea both in calm and storm. So the mind of man may be as calm as a slumbering sea, or raging as the stormy wave; but it is the same heart still. The breath of temptation, like the ocean wind, makes all the difference between calm, and storm.
But let me ask, do you not fear, reverence, and adore that great and glorious name which Satan has been tempting you to blaspheme? Is not this, then, a proof that from him these suggestions come? Of all Satan's temptations this seems to be the most infernal; of all his threats, this the most deadly. If Satan could but prevail upon you to speak the word, he would triumph over you as a lost soul. Therefore he does all he can to drive you into the very pitfalls of hell. But he shall not succeed, for the "the weapons formed against you shall not prosper." His is the sin and his shall be the punishment.
2. Temptations which ALLURE.
But there are temptations not so distressing and yet more perilous. These I have just been hinting at are seen; but there are those which are unseen. The enemy can hardly disguise his plotting hand in the former; he spreads the snare, but does not show himself in the latter. In the one he is a lion from the swelling of Jordan, in the other a trailing serpent hidden in the grass. There are temptations so thoroughly adapted to our fallen nature--snares so suited to our lusts, and Satan has such a way of seducing his victim little by little into the trap until it falls down upon him, that none can escape but by the power of God. I am well convinced that none can deliver the soul from these snares of the fowler, except that the mighty hand which brings up out of the horrible pit and out of the miry clay! Time, however, will not permit me to enter into all the diversified trials and temptations with which the Lord exercises his saints.
II. I therefore pass on to show what is the EFFECT of falling into these diverse temptations; for that is the source of the joy which we are bidden to count them. There is no profit or pleasure in temptations and trials viewed by themselves, for "no chastening for the present seems to be joyous but grievous." Heb 12:11. It is the effect they produce by which we are to calculate our gains. And this effect is two-fold as here pointed out by the pen of the Holy Spirit. One is that it tries faith; the other that it works patience.
1. The trial of faith. Whenever God communicates faith, he tries it. Why? That it may be proved to be genuine. Look at this in the case of Abraham. Abraham is a pattern to believers; he is therefore called "the father of all those who believe" Ro 4:11--his faith being so eminent, and of a character so spiritual and gracious. But see how it was tried. For twenty-five years did the Lord try the faith he had planted in Abraham's bosom. Year after year, month after month, week after week, day after day, was the Lord trying Abraham's faith. Sarah's petulance, eager craving for a child, jealousy of Hagar and then oppressing her until she fled out of the house, and their increasing years and delayed prospects, must all have deeply tried the patriarch's faith. But against hope he believed in hope, was "strong in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully persuaded that what he had promised he was able to perform." Ro 4:18-21. Look, too, at David's case. How he was hunted like a partridge on the mountains, and was in continual apprehension of losing his life by the hand of Saul, so that he said, "There is but a step between me and death." View those two eminent saints of God; where their faith was tried to the uttermost!
In fact, the stronger your faith is, the greater trials it will have to endure. The reality, the genuineness, as well as the strength of your faith are only to be evidenced by the amount of trial which it will stand. When for instance, you have been walking for some months in a smooth and easy path, and have scarcely experienced any trials from without or within, you have hardly known the strength, or indeed even the reality, of your own faith. You have been induced to take things very much for granted. You have not looked to the Lord as you should look to him; nor trusted to his strength as you should trust to it. You have been secretly leaning upon your own wisdom, resting upon a consistent profession, and mistaking ease in Zion for assurance of faith. But a trial comes. Where is your faith now? It sinks out of sight; you seem to have none; at least, none that you can make use of, or that does you any good. "O," you say, "I thought I could trust the Lord; but how can I trust him now that he does not appear? He hides his face; the heavens are as brass; he shuts out my cry. Why is this trial come upon me? O that I could believe! What shall I do if God does not appear? I am a lost man without him. O that he would manifest himself in mercy to my soul!"
The Lord is now trying your faith--whether you can trust to him in the dark as well as in the light--whether you can look to Jesus at the right hand of the Father with a single eye--whether you can rest the whole weight of your soul upon his blood and righteousness; or whether you lack something in yourself to win the favor of God and recommend you to his notice. Thus the Lord tries your faith by putting a strain upon it. It is like the mode in which the strength of cannon is tested; the guns are doubly or trebly charged, and if they do not then burst, they are considered equal to anything that may be afterwards required of them. Or as cables are tried in the Queen's service; they are subjected to a strain very much greater than any they will be called upon to endure in actual use, and if they stand that heavy strain they are deemed fit for sea. In fact, not a sword or musket is entrusted to the soldier which has not been submitted to the most severe trial; or what would be the consequence? They might fail in the day of battle. Thus when the Lord calls a man to be a soldier and puts faith into his hand, he gives him a faith which he himself has tried, according to his own word--"I counsel you to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that you may be rich." He will not put into the hand of his soldier a sword that will break to pieces when he meets the enemy, or a weapon that shatters in the hand at the first onset, but one with which he shall be able to fight, and with which he shall come off more than conqueror; and that is, tried faith, his own gift and work.
I extend the word to all your temptations as well as your trials. You will one day see, if not now, how every one has worked to this end; to try your faith, of what sort it is--whether your heart is right with God--whether you are sincere before the heart-searching Jehovah--whether you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ with a faith of a divine operation, or whether your faith and hope are merely of nature's manufacture, put into your hand by self and Satan, to ruin you under a guise of religion.
2. The working of patience. Another effect of trial is pointed out by the Holy Spirit--it "works patience." By "patience" we are not altogether to understand the word in its usual signification. The word "patience" in Scripture means rather endurance. It does not so much signify that quietness of soul--that calm and silent, that uncomplaining, unrepining submission to God's will which we understand by the word "patience"--as that firm and lasting endurance of all that God may see fit to lay upon us. It is a solder's virtue rather than a hermit's; a stout man's fortitude under pain rather than a quiet woman's passive submission under suffering. "You have heard," says James, "of the patience of Job." Look at the context. "Behold we count them happy who endure." What follows? "You have heard of the patience of Job." Now it is just the same word in both expressions in the original, and should therefore have been rendered the "endurance" of Job; for not all his trials and temptations made him give up faith and hope.
Faith, then, viewed as the gift of God, and as proved by all the trials and temptations that he sends to exercise it, "works" the soldier-like endurance of which our text speaks. For how is a soldier made? Send him to the Crimea or to India; that will make him a soldier. He does not learn the stern duties of his calling by being paraded upon Aldershot heath or by going through his drill upon Southsea common. He must go into actual war; he must hear the cannon roar and see the sabers flash in his face; give and take cut and thrust; lie all night upon the battlefield; rush up the steep breach amid the groans of the wounded, and press on determined to conquer or die. The battle alone makes the soldier--the experience, not the theory of war.
How is the Christian soldier made? By going to chapel--by reading the Bible--by singing hymns--by talking about religion? Just as much as the veteran warrior is made at Aldershot or Southsea. He must go into the battle and fight hand to hand with Satan and the flesh; he must endure cruel wounds given by both outward and inward foes; he must lie upon the cold ground of desolation and desertion; he must rush up the breach when called to storm the castles of sin and evil, and never "yield or leave the field," but press on determined to win the day or die. In these battles of the Lord, in due time he learns how to handle his weapons--how to call upon God in supplication and prayer, to trust in Jesus Christ with all his heart, to beat back Satan, to crucify self, and live a life of faith in the Son of God. Religion is not a matter of theory or of doctrine; it is to be in the thick of the battle, fighting with the enemy hand to hand, foot to foot, shoulder to shoulder. This actual--not sham warfare--makes the Christian soldier hardy--strengthens the muscles of his arm--gives him skill to wield his weapons, and power sometimes to put his enemies to flight. Thus it "works endurance,"--makes him a veteran, so that he is no longer a raw recruit, but one able to fight the Lord's battles and "to endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ."
What then have been your best friends? Your trials. Where have you learned your best lessons? In the school of temptation. What has made you look to Jesus? A sense of your sin and misery. Why have you hung upon the word of promise? Because you had nothing else to hang upon. Thus, could you look at the results, you would see this--that trials and temptations produced upon your spirit the two effects of which the text speaks; that they tried your faith, and that sometimes to the uttermost, so that in the trial it seemed as if all your faith were gone; and yet they have wrought patience--they have made you endure.
Why have you not long ago given up all religion? Have your trials made you disposed to give it up? They have made you hold all the faster by it. Have your temptations induced you to let it go as a matter of little consequence? Why, you never had more real religion than when you were tried whether you had any; and never held faith with a tighter grasp than when Satan was pulling it all away. The strongest believers are not the men of doctrine, but the men of experience; not the boasters but the fighters; not the 'parade officers' in all the millinery of spotless regimentals, but the tattered, soiled, wounded, half-dead soldiers that give and take no quarter from sin or Satan.
But the word has another meaning, one in more strict accordance with the word "patience;" that is submission to God's will. When the Lord puts us in the furnace, we go in kicking and rebelling. Our coward flesh shrinks from the flame. But when we have been some time in the furnace and find that we cannot kick ourselves out, and that our very struggling only makes the coals burn more fiercely--at last, by the grace of God working in us, we begin to lie still. It was so with Job. How he fought against God! How his carnal mind was stirred up in self-justification and rebellion until the Lord himself appeared and spoke to his heart from heaven. Then he came to this point--"I have heard of you by the hearing of the ear; but now my eyes sees you. Therefore I abhor myself and repent in dust and ashes." Then the Lord accepted him and delivered him; turned his captivity, pardoned, and blessed him. So with Abraham, when he submitted to sacrifice Isaac, God appeared to deliver him. So with David, when he submitted to the Lord's chastening hand, he brought him back to Jerusalem. But this will be more evident in our next point, to which I now hasten.
III. The apostolic counsel, "Let patience have her perfect work," that the saint of God "may be perfect and entire, lacking nothing."
There is a work for patience to perform. Every grace of the Spirit has a certain work to do. As in a large factory, every hand knows his place and the work he has to do, so in the wonderful piece of divine machinery--the work of God upon the soul, every grace of the Spirit has its separate work to perform. Faith does not do the work of love, nor hope that of faith, nor love that of patience. Each different grace, like separate wheels in some beautiful machine, has its own place and its own work. Patience then has its work; and what is that? Twofold, according to my explanation of the word.
1. To ENDURE all trials, live through all temptations, bear all crosses, carry all loads, fight all battles, toil through all difficulties, and overcome all enemies.
2. To SUBMIT to the will of God--to own that he is Lord and King--to have no will or way of its own, no scheme or plan to please the flesh, avoid the cross, or escape the rod; but to submit simply to God's righteous dealings, both in providence and grace, believing that he does all things well, that he is a sovereign "and works all things according to the counsel of his own will." Eph 1:11.
Now until the soul is brought to this point, the work of patience is not perfect; it may be going on, but it is not consummated. You may be in the furnace of temptation now, passing through the fiery trial. Are you rebellious or submissive? If still rebellious, you must abide in the furnace until you are brought to submission; and not only so, but it must be thorough submission, or else patience has not its perfect work. The dross of rebellion must be scummed off, and the pure metal flow down. It is all of God's grace to feel this for a single moment.
But are there not, and have there not been, times and seasons in your soul, when you could be still and know that he is God? when you could submit to his will, believing that he is too wise to err--too good to be unkind? When this submission is felt, patience has its perfect work. Look at Jesus, our great example; see him in the gloomy garden, with the cross in prospect before him on the coming morn. How he could say--"Not my will, but yours be done!" There was the perfect work of patience in the perfect soul of the Redeemer.
Now you and I must have a work in our soul corresponding to this, or else we are not conformed to the suffering image of our crucified Lord. Patience in us must have its perfect work; and God will take care that it shall be so. As in a beautiful piece of machinery, if the engineer sees a cog loose or a wheel out of gear, he must adjust the defective part, that it may work easily and properly, and in harmony with the whole machine; so if the God of all our salvation sees a particular grace not in operation, or not properly performing its appointed work, he by his Spirit so influences the heart that it is again brought to work as he designed it should do.
Measure your faith and patience by this standard; but do not take in conjunction, or confound with them the workings of your carnal mind. Here we often mistake; we may be submissive as regards our spirit--meek and patient, quiet and resigned, in the inward man, yet feel many uprisings and rebellings of the flesh; and thus patience may not seem to have her perfect work. But to look for perfect submission in the flesh, is to look for perfection in the flesh, which was never promised and is never given. Look to what the Spirit is working in you--not to the carnal mind, which is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be, and therefore knows neither subjection nor submission. Look at that inward principality of which the Prince of peace is Lord and Ruler, and see whether in the still depths of your soul, and where he lives and reigns, there is submission to the will of God.
But it adds, "that you may be perfect and entire, lacking nothing." The word "perfect" in the Scripture does not mean, as applied to a saint of God, anything approaching to the usual idea of perfection, as implying spotless, sinless holiness--but one who is matured and ripened in the life of God--no longer a child but a grown man. As a tree grown to its full stature is said to have attained perfection; so when the Lord the Spirit has brought forth the work of patience in your soul, as far as regards that work you are perfect, for it is God's work in you; and so far you are "entire," that is, possessing all which that grace gives, and "lacking nothing" which that grace can communicate.
To submit wholly to the will of God, and be lost and swallowed up in conformity to it, is the height of Christian maturity here below; and he that has that, lacks nothing, for he has all things in Christ. What, then, is the greatest height of grace to which the soul can arrive? Where did grace shine forth so conspicuously as in the Lord Jesus Christ? and where did grace manifest itself more than in the gloomy garden and on the suffering cross? Was not the human nature of Jesus more manifestly filled with the Spirit, and did not every grace shine forth in him more conspicuously in Gethsemane and on Calvary than when enraptured upon the Mount of Transfiguration? So there is more manifested grace in the heart of a saint of God who, under trial and temptation, can say, "Your will be done," and submit himself to the chastening rod of his Heavenly Father, than when he is basking in the full beams of the Sun of Righteousness. How often we are mistaken in this matter--longing for enjoyment, instead of seeing the true grace makes us submit to the will of God, whether in the valley or upon the mount!
IV. The transmuting effect of grace enabling the tried and tempted family of God to "count it all joy" when they fall into diverse temptations.
This is the grand key of the whole, and on which I need not tarry long, as I have already anticipated it. We are to "count it all joy" when we fall into diverse temptations. I have been setting before you a problem in arithmetic--a sum in compound addition; add it up or down, and look at the sum total--"Joy." Take all your trials and mark them down; next add all the temptations with which your mind has been exercised; now add them up, and what is the full amount? A word of three letters--a sum more valuable than if it were three figures, and each figure a nine--"Joy." That is the sum total, according to the calculation of the Holy Spirit, of all your trials and all your temptations. You are to "count it all joy."
What mysterious arithmetic! How unlike the addition taught in schools! How different from the sums and problems set on slates and copybooks! How different, also, a result does the Lord the Spirit bring out from your own calculations when you looked at them one by one, without adding up the whole sum! Then "count it all joy" when you fall into diverse temptations, knowing that their effect is to wean you from the world--to endear Christ--to render his truth precious, and to make you fit for the inheritance of the saints in light.
Are you satisfied with the solution of the problem? Can you write down your own name at the bottom of the sum and say, "it is proved; I carry the proof in my own bosom?"