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Alas! why should that wholesome discipline, which consummate Wisdom hath ever exercised upon those whom He hath made willing to bear every refining operation and turning of His holy hand, seem strange to any of us ? Gold is tried in the fire, and acceptable men in the furnace of adversity; and indeed, if “ it became Him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the Captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings;" if He was “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief,” is it not “ enough for the disciple that he be as his Master, and the servant as his Lord?”
There are various causes of suffering; there are various baptisms, buffetings, and trials; our different conditions require a different discipline, and the different designs of God upon us require, or make it necessary for us, to be brought under different operations.
All the faithful in the several generations wherein the prophets lived, were not brought under those particular, and (for the present)grievous exercises which the prophets were, in order to prepare them for the work whereunto they were called, unto which many learned obedience by the things which they suffered.
It is true, the judgments of the Lord are many times unsearchable, and His ways past finding out.
Who,” saith the apostle, “ hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been His counsellor ? ”
secret things belong to Him; but things which are revealed, to us and to our children. But if all the holy patriarchs, prophets, apostles, martyrs, and confessors of Jesus, have, like their blessed Lord, been men of sorrows and acquainted with grief, and entered the kingdom through many tribulations; can we doubt whether the particular trials, siftings, and probations, which God only wise permitted or appointed unto them, were not, to every one of these to whom he appointed them, mercies, mercies, mercies in disguise? Were they not made a means of preservation in His fear, made a means of bringing them nearer to Him, to trust more firmly in, and to rely more entirely upon Him, the only refuge of the righteous in times of trouble? Have not all the afflictions of the righteous been thus sanctified? and will not the endless hallelujah, which these shall have to sing, be unto Him who hath redeemed their souls out of all adversity, and made their garments white in the blood of the Lamb ?
Many now, as well as formerly, are the afflictions of the righteous, and from different causes, different in their nature, and different in their degree; but, though hid from mortals, they are all known to God, who careth for them, by whom the very
hairs of their head are all numbered, and not one of them shall fall without Him. Their sighs are all numbered by Him, and their tears are all sealed up in His bottle; why then should Sion say,
or why should the watchers on her walls
“ The Lord hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me? can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget,” saith the Lord, “yet will I not forget thee: behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands, thy walls are continually before me.” No, verily, “ the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and His ears are open unto their prayers.” However unmindful He may seem to be of the distress and danger which threaten them, when the tempest arises, and the enemy breaketh in as a flood, yet in His own time, and that surely is the best time, will He arise, and rebuke both the wind and the waves, and the enemy, for their sakes"; and by the effective word of His power, who speaketh and it is done, once more say,
“ Peace, be still.” But should it seem best to Him, who is wonderful in counsel, and doeth all things right, to lead any in the line of the glorious process of His dear Son; should the hour and power of darkness be extended to the latest moments; should the final cup and baptism be the most trying and most bitter; should our dying words, under these painful feelings, be expressed in that most moving language of the Son of God, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani,” I should have no more doubt of the righteous soul thus tried, ascending from this cross, and apparent dereliction, to an immortal crown of righteousness and mansion of eternal glory ; no more doubt of these, than if I saw them ascending in the fiery chariots of sensible, celestial, soulrejoicing fervours.
I know not how sufficiently to inculcate this most certain truth, that the children of God are never more under His notice and most tender regard, than in the seasons of their deepest humiliations ; never is He more intimately present with us, preparing and supporting under every operation, and directing, blessing, and sanctifying every dispensation, to willing, humbled, and subjected souls. Thus is He carrying on His own work, though we see it not. Oh that thou mightst not be discouraged, nor sink under the present exercise! nor murmur as some of old murmured, nor think the Lord delayeth His coming; but endeavour, all in thy power, to centre in perfect resignation to the will of God; and then, assuredly, all things will work together for thy good, and for thy additional preparation to glorify His holy name, in time and in eternity. Amen. From thy real, respectful friend,
P.S. I do not forget, my honoured friend, to whom I am writing, nor my own infancy and weakness. It is with a feeling deference that I address to thee this feeble offering; but as I said, I thought I felt at least a liberty, and if the Lord
be mercifully pleased, so to bless it, that the pure mind be thereby stirred up ever so little, His name be praised; but if I wrote ever so much, I should fall short of expressing to the full, the equal desire and faith which I feel that thou mayst, and that thou wilt, in the Lord's own time, which thou art waiting for, yet have to sing for joy of heart as in the days of thy youth, as in the days when thou wast brought forth out of the land of spiritual Egypt.
To FRANCES DODSHON.
7th Mo. 17, 1777.
My dear and much esteemed Friend,
Although I am persuaded, and have considered it, that thou hast seen, and felt, and attained, beyond many of us, and art much better capable of communicating thy experience; yet I do not apprehend myself thereby excused from casting my mite into thy treasury of divine knowledge, though thereby I may expose my own poverty.
The letter which thou condescendedst to write me, came duly to hand; and since that time, and indeed ever since thou wast here, though my own concerns have been somewhat grievous, and demanded both my solicitude and atten