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and a voice trembling with emotion, “ Hush, Mary; you have but one pair of empty little shoes to look on. Be you thankful. I have six of them.” And, when most severely tried, and all God's billows seem to be going over us, besides feeling that we are visited with far less than our iniquities deserve, we have only to look abroad to see that our afflictions are fewer than those which many others suffer.
He looked next beneath him. And there, to his fancy's eye, lay his grave; a green grassy mound, six feet of earth! How foolish it seemed to repine over the loss of broad lands, when so small a portion of this earth was all he soon would need, and all, though stretched out at his full length, he could occupy! That man blunts the keen edge of misfortune, who meets its stroke with the thought, that when it does its worst, it cannot strip him so bare as death shall the most prosperous and envied of men ? Adversity, at the worst, but takes time by the forelock, and, by a few brief years, anticipates the hand of the greatest spoiler, inexorable death. We came into the world naked infants, and we shall go out of it as naked. We brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. The men of fortune shall not carry away a penny of their gains, nor the men of fame so much as one leaf of their laurel crowns. When life's play in all its acts is over, and the curtain drops, and the lights are put out, and the stage is deserted, its kings, queens, priests, soldiers, peasants, statesmen, dropping their distinctive characters, must all return to one common level. There is one event to all. And let us remember that it shall be with us as with those actors on the stage whom men applaud, not because of the parts they play, but of the way in which they
play them. Well done from God, well done from Christ, well done from the tongues of ten thousand angels, shall crown the life of a good servant, but not the life of a bad sovereign. God has no respect for persons, but will reward every man, not according to his place, but according to the way he filled it. He shall reward every maņ according to his work.
He looked last of all above him, and saw his home in heaven. And how should that glorious prospect sustain us under our severest trials! To that refuge our thoughts may always fly ; and as there is no pit so deep but it has that opening over head, though it may be dark below and all around, it is always bright above us. Let the world reel and shake, let banks break, let sudden changes whelm affluence into the lowest depths of poverty, let convulsion succeed convulsion, till the stateliest fabrics and firmest fortunes are hurled into the dust, how blessed at such a time to know that heaven is sure. No tempests sweep its sea of glass. Up there it is calm when it is stormy here ; up there it is clear when it is cloudy here ; up there it is day when it is darkness here ; nor are those realms of bliss any more affected by the events of earth, than are the stars of the firmament by the earthquakes that shake our world, or the thunders that shake our skies. By considerations like these we should strengthen our minds, and give them that firmness of texture which shall preserve us from devouring cares, as solid, closegrained oak is preserved from those insects that eat out the heart of softer woods. Let God give his blessing to such thoughts, and they will enable a Christian man to meet evil as the mountain crag looks out on the approaching storm.
Yet the Italian's explanation of his equanimity under
afflictions to which all of us are exposed, and against which, therefore, we do well to be fortified, does not bring out the grandest secret of a calm, resigned, happy spirit; the secret of a patriarch's unparalleled patience and of a prophet's dauntless courage. That lies not so much in looking within, or looking without, in dropping our eye on the grave, or raising it to the crown, as in looking to God. The brightest light that falls on our trials issues from his throne. That changed the whole aspect of Job's afflictions, and hence, his well-known exclamation, The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away ; blessed be the name of the Lord. And what also but a sight of God inspired the courage with which the prophet eyed the approach of misfortune, defying it as a man on a rock defies the swelling billows of an angry sea. “Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines ; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls : yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation.”
Extravagant as that may sound in the ears of some, it is the language of a calm, sober, solid faith. For what in reason should hinder him who sees in God a Father, and believes that all events proceed from his hand, and are managed by his wisdom, and are prompted by his love, from kissing the rod, and saying, Father, not my will, but thine be done ; from taking the cup and draining it to the bitterest dregs. We have perfect confidence in his wisdom and in his love; and we only do him the justice which we would expect from our own children when we believe that he doth not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men, nor ever chastens but in love. His was a noble saying who, when his crops were rotting in flooded fields, and ruin stared him from the scowling heavens, and other men cursed the weather, on being asked his reason for saying that it pleased him, replied, It pleases God to send it, and whatever pleases him pleases me. That sounds like an echo of the old prophet's voice; and we are ready to envy a man whose faith could triumph over such great misfortunes. Yet why should we not lie as calmly in the arms of God's providence as we lay in infancy on a mother's breast? Having an everliving, an everlasting, an ever-loving father in God, how may we welcome all providences; and, drawing some good from every evil, as the bee extracts honey even from poisoned flowers, how may we say, “ Our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory !” Sweetly submissive to the will of God, shall it not fare with us as with the pliant reeds that love the hollows and fringe the margin of the lake, and bending to the blast, not resisting it, raise their heads anew, unharmed by the storm that has snapped the mountain pine, and rent the hearts of oak asunder? The joy of the Lord is our strength.
Let us now consider that which, while it pleased God, will certainly please all his people,
II. The fullness that is in Christ.
Within the palace, but without the throne-room of Shushan, Queen Esther stands. They who enter the king's presence unsummoned do it at the peril of their life ; and resolved in a good cause to dare the penalty, she stands there with her jewelled foot upon the grave. A noble spectacle! not so much for her unrivalled beauty, still less for the splendour of her apparel, as for the resolution to venture life, and either save her nation or perish in the attempt. In her blooming youth, in the admiration of the court, in the affections of her husband, in her lofty rank, in her queenly honours, she has everything to make life attractive. Hers is a golden cup; and it is foaming of pleasures to the brim. But her mind is made up to die ; and so, with a silent prayer, and “if I perish, I perish," on her lips, she passes in, and now stands mute and pallid, yet calm and resolute outside the ring of nobles, to hear her doom. Nor has she to endure the agony of a long suspense. Her fate, which seems to tremble in the balance, is soon determined. No sooner does the monarch catch sight of the beautiful woman, and brave and good as beautiful, whom he had raised from slavery to share his bed and throne, than her apprehensions vanish. The clouds break; and she finds, as we often do with Christ, that her fears have wronged her Lord. Instantly his hand stretches out the golden sceptre; the business of the court is stopped ; the queen, the queen! divides the crowd of nobles ; and up that brilliant lane she walks in majesty and in charms that outvie her gems, to hear the blessed words, What wilt thou, Queen Esther ? and what is thy request ? it shall be even given thee to the half of the kingdom.
What wilt thou, Queen Esther ? is but an echo of the voice which faith catches from the lips of Jesus ; and the whole scene presents but a dim, imperfect image of that which heaven presents when the gate rolls open, and angels and archangels making way for him, a believer enters with his petitions. Was that beautiful woman once a slave ? So was he. In her royal marriage was lowliness allied to majesty ? So it is in his union by faith with Jesus Christ. And as to her por