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which is enough to harrow up our feelings, such as to appal the stoutest heart, and to cause the most sanguine spirit to sink with dismay or settle down into despair. There are however, cases of individual suffering, presenting features almost as gloomy, and endured too by the saints of God. Such as call forth all their energies to sustain, and engage the especial sympathies of Jehovah. Could we enter into the privacy of many of the children of God, we should find their temporal condition gloomy in the extreme.
Let us take a case recorded in the word of inspiration,that of Job. While an example of patience he was also an instance of severe suffering; he would certainly feel his fall in proportion to the elevation he had previously enjoyed. He possessed princely wealth, a numerous and happy family, and above all the favour of God. Yet his piety did not save him from trouble, or shield him from sudden and violent distress. At a single stroke, by the rude hand of violence, his wealth is dissipated, and the prince becomes a beggar. His children the desire of his eyes and the joy of his heart, are taken away, their removal having all the appearance of an irreparable misfortune. Wealth might be restored, but from the chambers of the grave who shall bring back ? Superadded to this is a painful and distressing bodily malady, while, instead of the sympathy and condolence we are accustomed to meet with in times of trouble, he receives the unmerited reproofs and upbraidings of his friends.
Now taking Job's situation and prospects as a whole, they appear almost as dark and gloomy as the imagination can portray. They may, perhaps, to some extent be paralleled in other instances. Severe bodily diseases, attended by privation and poverty, are often experienced. To be abandoned by friends in the hour of adversity, or to be treated by them as though the inflictions of divine
providence were your crime ;-is nothing unusual in the tale of human life; causing us to address them with Job, "Miserable comforters are ye all.”
But after all, however severe our visitations may be, however great our bereavements, deprived of every temporal good, though all our friends were either dead or changed in their spirit and temper towards us,-how great soever our personal suffering, or dark our prospect-our case will not present a complete analogy to that of the prophet. There was equivalent to all this to be endured in his individual capacity. But, he was not alone in his desolation. The whole inhabitants of his country were to be involved in the same tremendous catastrophe. His misery was increased by his apprehension of the extent of the wide-spreading calamity. And well might it call forth the expressions contained in the verse immediately preceding the text. When I heard, my belly trembled, &c.
But he took the matter to God, and mark the influence of true religion, and the power of faithful prayer. He comes from that exercise armed with moral courage sufficient for the occasion, and contemplating fully the danger to which he was exposed, gives utterance to
II.—THAT HOLY RESOLUTION WHICH FORMS THE SECOND SUBJECT FOR OUR CONSIDERATION.
There appears in the use of this language an expression of high and holy confidence in God, such as is scarcely to be paralleled in the Word of inspiration itself. In the midst of a prospect the most gloomy, such as we have been contemplating, the prophet utters not the language, of patience, resignation, and submission only,--but of holy triumph, I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation. The prophet's rejoicing was not however at these calamities. His joy did not spring from the contemplation of that misery and ruin by which he was
surrounded. That description of unholy and malignant satisfaction, felt by the unrenewed man in its infliction, would belong to the oppressors and could have no place in the pure and holy mind of the prophet.
The object of his joy was God. Nor is joy in God at all inconsistent with the indulgence of the tenderest sympathy with suffering humanity. There is nothing in true religion that locks up the affections, or forbids the exercise of those sympathies which God has implanted in the human soul. Its object is to refine and purify them; to direct them into their proper channel, and to afford fuller opportunities for their complete and benevolent manifestation. And, doubtless the prophet wept over the coming judgments to be inflicted upon his countrymen, and would gladly have prevented or relieved the distress occasioned by them,—while he yet determined to “rejoice in the Lord, and to joy in the God of his salvation."
1.–We perceive the ground of the prophet's joy. His personal interest in God. 66 The God of my
salvation." Past experience forms the sure ground of his confidence. He stands not in the attitude of the man who has his religion to seek, when the hour of temptation and distress overtakes hirn;—but of one who knows “in whom he has believed," and rests upon his past experience of his power and faithfulness. If the prospect was on the one hand, dark, cheerless, gloomy,,it was on the other light, joyous, hopeful. Did nothing appear around his path in a temporal point of view but danger and distress ;-when he came to review his spiritual condition and eternal prospects,-all was consolation and peace. He remembered with gratitude and joy, the change that had taken place both in his relationship to the Deity, and in his future prospects as connected with it. He reflected upon the constant support he had received, and confidently expected its continuance. What mattered suffering and affliction to him while God was his portion ? Although carried into captivity, made the slave of some ruthless despot, or chained in some foul and noisome dungeon ;—no fetters can bind the soul, no restraints imposed by man can confine the spirit, or check the intercourse between the soul and God. He is possessed of a liberty of which none can deprive him, a freedom enjoyed in captivity and imprisonment. “The glorious liberty of the children of God.” “ Freedom of access to the throne of grace." And, to increase his comfort he is assured that in a few short years at most, his imprisoned body shall escape the “fury of the oppressor” and enter into the land “where the wicked cease from troubling” and where “the weary are at rest.” And his happy spirit enter the realms of the blessed, where everlasting glories shall crown bis head, and sorrow and sighing be no more. Well indeed might the prophet with this view of the matter before his mind exclaim, “I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation."
2.-The character of God forms the prophet's encouragement to confide in him.
i.-As He is a being of infinite power, there is no want of ability in God to deliver his people from the assaults of their foes. The active and well-informed mind of the prophet must have been stored with instances of the power of God displayed for this purpose. He could trace God's dealings with Israel, and advert to the various plagues sent upon Pharaoh and his people to induce them to let his people depart from their state of bondage. He beholds this power displayed during their journey. The waters of the Red Sea are built up as a wall on either hand to let them pass over and escape their furious enemies, whilst he takes off the wheels of the Egyptian chariots and overwhelms their hosts in the returning waters. The armies of Amalek are discomfitted before them, and the waters of Jordan are compelled to retire and afford them a passage into the Promised Land. Again, the Almighty Angel of death visits the Assyrian camp and in a single night their mighty host is numbered with the dead! Here is powerful encouragement for our confidence, whatever the wisdom of God approves, or his goodness prompts on our behalf, his power can accomplish.
ii.-His principle encouragement would arise from the consideration of the Divine goodness.
In the exercise of the Divine goodness on our behalf is frequently involved that of every other perfection of the Divine nature. Whatever deliverances we experience, though they owe their accomplishment to an effort of his power, yet, have their origin in his goodness. “Thou art good and doest good.” “The Lord is good and his tender mercies are over all his works,” is the foundation of our confidence and joy. It is the Divine goodness that puts infinite wisdom in requisition to devise the means for our escape from danger, and calls forth the exertion of Almighty power to carry them into execution. Everything we receive, everything we enjoy, comes from this source; has its spring in the inalienable, immutable goodness of God. Such views as these would form the subject of the prophet's encouragement, and lay a firm foundation for his joy. It is true, however, that the Divine goodness is not always displayed in the bestowment of temporal deliverances upon his people.
Infinite wisdom often directs its exercise another way. Aware, perhaps, that temporal deliverance would not accomplish the object he has in view in the permission of the affliction, and most effectually to promote the spiritual and eternal happiness of its subject, the