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tempted to resent one of your at once. Annie was hushing the questions, I whispered, Help me baby, whose eyes had opened wide to answer softly.' Yesterday, when when Willie's block - house had I spoke crossly to Willie, I said in tumbled in ruins. the next breath, Lord, forgive me, “Do you mean to teach your and help me to keep my mouth children such principles ?” asked and my tongue.' Sometimes I auntie at length. can't do more than turn my face “I mean to teach them only to the Lord with one swift look of what is right. If my way is wrong repentance or imploring, but He I trust I shall see it. I want the knows what it means. Sometimes children to feel that Jesus is close I have but an instant just to reach by, ready to hear any little word out my hand, and He knows it's for they want to speak to Him at any help. It's a comfort that we don't time; and also to have the habit need to put everything into words of night and morning prayer. But for Him. Often my heart is so full I don't want the 'set times' alone, I can't speak one word of the real as if Jesus was here only so long matter, but I lay it before Him, and each day, and they must say then only say, Thou knowest, help me, all they had to say for the next comfort, bless.' I may be alone twenty-four hours. I try to teach with Him half an hour after that, Willie both habits. I'm far from and not utter a syllable, yet feel good, auntie ; I know it even better happier and stronger every than you do. But I don't like you minute.”
to think that I'm altogether depart-. “It seems to me you are rather ing from my early home-lessons. familiar with the Lord. It doesn't I do 'make long prayers' somesound just respectful."
times. I have more than once, There was
no reply. Aunt since you've been here. I don't Miranda unwound a good deal think our Lord meant necessarily more yarn than was necessary I a literal closet.”
VISIONS AND VOICES FROM THE HOUSE OF
II.-THE MEANING OF TRIBULATION. " For his God doth instruct him to discretion, and doth teach him. For the fitches are not threshed with a threshing instrument, neither is a cart wheel turned about upon the cummin; but the fitches are beaten out with a staff, and the cummin with a rod. Bread corn is brụised ; because he will not ever be threshing it, nor break it with the wheel of his cart, nor bruise it with his horsemen. This also cometh forth from the Lord of hosts, which is wonderful in counsel, and excellent in working."Isa. xxviii. 26-29.
The former part of this passage describes the dealings of the husbandman with the land ; the latter his dealings with the fruit of the land. So much is plain, but beyond this there must be, I should imagine, to an English reader little else than obscurity and mystery. À change, however, in the twenty-sixth verse, suggested by the margin, will, I think, set the words in a new light: “ And he bindeth it in such sort as his God doth teach him; more literally still, and with better significance, “ And he chastiseth it with jud
ment; his God doth instruct him.” When the prophet refers to the action of the farmer upon the soil, his first point is that the ploughman's ultimate object is sowing; that therefore he is not for ever ploughing and breaking up the land, but when the preparation which he has had in view, and which is the sole reason for the ploughing, is obtained, that form of activity is relinquished, and he casts abroad the various seeds which he wishes to cultivate into the soil which has been made soft and level; and, in addition to this, he does not scatter the seeds indiscriminately upon all sorts of land, but selects the soil which is best adapted to the kind of seed which he wants to
grow, “ the wheat in rows, the barley in its appointed place, and the spelt in the border of the field.” But now the fruit is come up, and what does he do with it ? He chastises it according to judgment. This judgment is shown in two ways: (a) in the choice and adaptation of the mode of threshing. There were four modes in use among the Jews; first there was the wain, a very ponderous and formidable instrument brought out only for the heavier and harder kinds of fruits; then there was the cart, the wheels of which also were for the same purpose ; then there was the horse or the ox, whose feet were employed to tread out the corn; and then there was the staff, an instrument corresponding with our flail. Well says the prophet, fitches, the lighter kinds of seeds, are not threshed with a wain, nor is a cartwheel turned upon the cummin ; upon these the farmer, using sound judgment, employs only a staff or flail. Bread corn requires a heavier threshing, and bread corn is therefore bruised. But (6) he does not go on threshing it for ever, nor does he continue so long turning the wheel of his cart upon it, or crushing it with his horses, that it is broken into pieces and spoiled; in the measure of his threshing no less than in its mode does he exercise discretion, in the amount which he inflicts no less than in the form which he selects. 6. This also cometh forth from the Lord of hosts, which is wonderful in counsel, and excellent in working."
It is quite manifest that, though not a parable in form, the passage, is intended to be parabolically interpreted by us. The unsown land indicates human nature in its native condition; the fruit of that land after it has been sown indicates human nature taken possession of by the Word and spirit of God. And the first point is this,
I. Just as the corn, after it has grown up from the seed sown, needs the cleansing process of threshing, so the soul, after it has appropriated the grace of God in salvation through faith, needs to be disciplined and chastened and perfected by suffering. It used to be a great puzzle with some of the Old Testament saints, why a man of God, a man whom God loved and had chosen, and who was trying in humble faith and obedience to serve and glorify Him—why such a one should be subjected to trial. Perhaps their bewilderment arose out of the exceeding dimness which surrounded a fature life;
but the life and immortality brought to light in the gospel has made this all clear to us, and the suggestion contained in the figure of the text, whilst of course it cannot be pressed too strictly, may be taken to remind us of this thought, that in our first salvation we have not reached our final development. The corn is not grown for itself, it is meant for something beyond ; and that beyond can only be attained through bruising. It must be beaten into its future life. Even so our salvation is only a step in the onward, heavenward progress; and into that higher kingdom we must enter through the narrow pass of tribulation. The true divine reasoning is not, because I am God's servant, therefore I may expect immunity ; but, because I am God's servant, therefore I may expect to be chastised. This you remember is Christ's teaching. “Every branch in me that beareth fruit, he purgeth it.” If it were a lifeless, fruitless branch it would simply be taken away and allowed for the time perhaps to lie upon the ground unheeded and untroubled ; but being a living branch it is cut and cleansed by the pruning-knife. Your sonship involves the necessity for sorrow, because “what son is he whom the Father chasteneth not?” because you are corn, therefore you must be threshed.
You remember how this is brought out too in the words of John the Baptist regarding Christ. “I,” he says, “baptise you with water, but he will baptise you in the Holy Ghost, AND IN FIRE.” Not only have you the Lord Jesus, the divine Author of salvation, not only have you the Holy Spirit, the divine Operator in salvation, bat you have also the instrumentality of fire, which certainly amongst other things symbolises the furnace of affliction.
You know very well the way in which this discipline works, and why the necessity exists. It removes that in us which is husk, that which is sin and weakness and external covering. Peter standing up in the boat and saying unto the Lord Jesus Christ, “ If it be thou, bid me come to thee upon the waters,” represents qualities which may be of the highest importance and use in the kingdom and Church of Christ, but, in the midst of the religious dash (if I may use the word) which there shines out upon us, there is an element of pride and selfdependence which, if not checked, will not only counteract the possible good, but ruin the man himself; and the only way in which it can be got out of him is through the education which allows him to sink in deep waters, in order that he may be brought to cry,“ Lord, save, or I perish.” That the abundance of Paul's revelations may not boil over into an exaggerated exaltation, there must be sent unto him a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet him. The roughnesses of life find out our weak places, and, though at first they raise blisters and cause pain, in the long. run they change the infirmities into strength and power. When first we are separated from the rock of nature and raised out of the pit of corruption, we are like iron ore, having in us a vast deal of dross which must become slag and refuse, and we need the blast-furnace not only that this dross may
be removed but that we may be in a condition to run into the mould, and so take the shape which the Master desires, and be prepared for the utilities unto which He destines us.
This leads me to say that discipline is required for the full development of all the solid and eternal possibilities that there may be within us. Many a fair and promising child has been marred and ruined by indulgence. You have met with cases about which you say, “There is a boy or girl with the makings of a splendid man or a beautiful woman in them, if only what was in them potentially had been brought out by proper discipline,” but for the want of the discipline these potentialities have been checked and dwarfod, and the thorns, finding scope, have sprung up and gathered strength and choked the good seed. How often trial discovers and reveals and calls forth into manifestation and exercise qualities which were lying dormant, and which through their non-activity must gradually have slept away into decay and death. There is many a person whose virtues never would have been suspected had it not been for the hour of trial, whilst the trial which has revealed has at the same time strengthened the virtue which it has called into operation; and it often happens, too, that the more noble the elements which exist in a man, the more severe is the process required unto the perfecting of their possibilities. Corn wants heavier threshing than cummin, not because it is less valuable, but because its superior value gives it a greater power of resistance, and makes it worth while to accept the heavier toil.
Who would ever have known the depth and the clinging power of the faith of the Syro-Phænician woman, had it not been for the Divine discipline which met her beseeching cry with dead silence ? Who would ever have suspected the magnificence of the change which had come over Saul of Tarsus, and the strength and intensity of his devotion to his dear Saviour, if he had not been “in stripes above measure, in prisons frequent, in deaths oft, in weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.” Probably if either of these had been less than they really were, the Divine measures with them would have been much more gentle, but who doubts that both were only the more firmly and deeply rooted in their trust and devotion by the very process which brought these qualities to light. “ Tribulation," that is, the action of the tribulum, the grinding of the threshing wain, “worketh endurance.” It beats out of its covering of husk the solid core of fruit, and so it fits the fruit for its higher uses; or, to use the old illustration, the cutting and the attrition unlock and emancipate the light and beauty which are imprisoned in the dull-looking precious stone.
" As the harp-strings only render
All their treasures of sweet sound,
Firmly struck or tightly bound :
So the hearts of Christians owe,
Each its deepest, sweetest strain,
And the tension tight of pain.
Spices crushed their pungence yield,
Trodden scents their sweets respire,
Cast the incense in the fire.
Oft doth sweetest graces yield,
Heavenly incense is distilled.”
II. The discipline experienced by the people of God will be certainly such as is best adapted to secure the highest possible ends.
Let it be remembered that it is being administered and superintended by One who, whilst He sets much value upon them, is distinguished by the profoundest wisdom. Do not let us lose sight of this truth. There is very much which tends to hide it from our eyes. There is a vast amount of talk which seems to proceed upon the supposition that man is in the midst of a great and intricate system of laws, a massive machinery, which, like the sails of a windmill, is being carried round by the currents which are sweeping through this atmosphere, but which is removed from under the control of any intelligent force, unless it be the force of man's own will. According to this, man is his own regulator, the arbiter of his own destiny. We are apt to slide into what is virtually an identical mode of thought, when, e.g., we regard the great Creator as somewhere far away, behind all the laws, generally superintending their many processes, but having nothing to do directly with their application to us. But far different, and infinitely more blessed, is the truth as we have learned it. The Bible teaches us to see God in everything. It is not a wind which is turning the mill, but a divine hand; or at all events if it be å wind, that is only a secondary, instrumental cause; à power which He is controlling. It is the breath of Jehovah. It is not my poor wisdom, which, placed in the midst of this whirl of gales and currents, has to learn how to trim the sails so as to steer a right and a safe course to the desired haven; if it were so, I should indeed be overwhelmed with dread. I recognise my responsibility, but all nervousness is taken out of my thinking, when I know that over and above all is One who is thinking with me and for me. Composed and softened
Composed and softened by this thought, all things a different aspect wear. If the cross be a cup given me by Him to drink, then it is possible, by the grace of Him who conquered in Gethsemane, to rise to the acquiescence which, accepting it, will say, “ Thy will be done,” for I am sure it will not be a cup of deadly poison or needless excruciating torture.