« AnteriorContinuar »
THE PURIFICATION OF THE MIND BY TROUBLES
JOB xxiii. 10.
When he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.
The afflictions of life, though often griveous enough in themselves, become much more so by that state of doubt and perplexity into which the mind of the sufferer is brought by them. He is at a loss to conceive why so much wretchedness is his portion, and what the design of Providence can be in sending it. He is tempted to despair, as thinking God has forsaken him; or to impiety, as imagining there can be no God who governs the world in wisdom and righteousness.
Whenever we find ourselves led to such conclusions as these, we may be sure there is some error in the principles upon which we set out. We are in the dark with regard to some point, the knowledge of which would bring all right, and restore peace and comfort to our fluttering and disordered spirits.
In the case before us, a wrong notion of human life is at the bottom of those desponding and murmuring thoughts which arise in our hearts on finding ourselves encompassed and oppressed by a larger share than ordinary of its cares and troubles. We look not forward as we ought to do; we confine our views to the state of things in this present world; we regard it as final, and then wonder why our condition should be worse than that of our neighbours, when we think ourselves much better than they, and perhaps we really are so.
When the matter is thus stated, difficulties will certainly thicken upon us apace; and, indeed, I know not how we shall ever be able to see our way through them. But let us only reflect for a moment, that this life is no more than a preparation for another; that we come into it in a fallen and corrupted nature; that we are to be purified, during our short continuance in it, to qualify us for perfect happiness and endless glory in the presence of God; that such purification must be effected by trials and temptations; and that trials and temptations necessarily suppose troubles and afflictions, without which they cannot be made—let but these few plain considerations take place in the mind, and, at the brightness before them, clouds and darkness shall disperse, doubts and difficulties shall vanish away; and the poor desponding sufferer, who was lately accustomed, like the possessed man in the Gospel, to wander wild among the tombs, his imagination haunted with thoughts of death and desolation, may now be seen in his right mind, sitting at the feet of Jesus, and listening to words like these : “My son, despise not “thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when
“ thou art rebuked of him ; for whom the Lord “ loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son “ whom he receiveth. Blessed is the man that en“ dureth temptation; for when he is tried, he shall “ receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.”
I need not take up your time in proving at large, that this life is a state of trial. It appears sufficiently from the nature of man ; from the declarations of God; from the history of his people, in every age; and, above all, from the life and death of our Saviour Christ. We are all fully persuaded of this most important truth; but it may be of use to show how this persuasion, if reduced to practice, may become a source of patience and consolation, enabling us to support, with dignity and ease, the several inconveniences and tribulations which are permitted to befall us here below.
In general, we sink under temptation, because we do not sufficiently accustom ourselves to expect, and are, therefore, unprepared to encounter it. But were this idea (which is undoubtedly the true idea of our state) firmly impressed upon our minds, and always ready at hand, we should then stand armed for the fight, and by divine assistance be enabled to overcome. In this war, as in others, the great point is, to guard against a surprise ; and to take care, that whenever the enemy shall attack, he may find us ready to repel.
Of the temptations or trials to which we are subject, some proceed from without, and others from within,
The world endeavours at one time to seduce, at another to terrify us from the performance of our duty.
In the arts of seduction it is skilful. Whatever may be a man's turn or temper, there are objects fitted to lay hold of it. There is honour for the ambitious, wealth for the selfish, and pleasure for the gay. Unsuspicious of mischief, we are apt to close with proposals of this kind immediately without considering the terms on which they are offered, or the consequences which may follow. Not so the Son of God, our great pattern and example. In the day of his temptation, “the kingdoms of “ the world,” with their glories and their delights, were set before him. But he knew that it was the day of temptation, the hour of trial, on which all depended; he weighed the condition annexed : “ If thou wilt worship me all shall be thine;" he called to mind what was written, and discomfited the tempter at once: “Get thee behind me, Satan; “ for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord
thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.” Thus, of old time, to the mind of the patriarch Joseph, when beset by a formidable temptation, the proper thought occurred :-“How can I do this great “ wickedness, and sin against God ?" And the offers of the king of Moab to Balaam, were, at first, rejected, with this noble declaration : “If “ Balak would give me his house full of silver and
gold, I cannot go beyond the word of the Lord
my God, to do less or more.” Balaam found his integrity put to the test, and the question was, whether he should serve God or Mammon.
When the world cannot seduce, it will persecute. The example of him who stándeth, is a reproof to those who are fallen, and who are determined to rise no more. So saying, or so doing, thou reproachest us; and that we will not bear : say as we say, and do as we do, or expect our utmost vengeance; we will sell you to the Ishmaelites, or deliver you up to the Romans.
In the eleventh chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews, some persons are mentioned of this decided inflexible disposition,“ who through faith wrought “ righteousness, and never could be prevailed upon to change either their principles, or their practices. And now behold their situation—“They “had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover, of bonds and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword : they wan“ dered about in sheep-skins and goat-skins, being
destitute, afflicted, tormented. They wandered “ in deserts and in' mountains, and in dens and
caves of the earth.”—Poor, miserable, foolish creatures, below contempt! would the men of fashion perhaps exclaim. But what says the apostle, in the most wonderful parenthesis that ever was penned—“Of whom the world was not WORTHY.”
When the first Christians, in compliance with the strict injunctions of their God and Saviour, refused to defile themselves with the equally senseless and impious idolatry of their heathen neighbours, and all the other abominations which composed its train, the alternative was, to expire in