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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 2 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 2 So it is in his union by faith with Jesus Christ. And as to her r
apparel, the diadem, the cloth of gold bedecked with sparkling gems, in which her maids have attired their mistress, why, in the righteousness that clothes, and the graces of the Spirit that adorn him, the believer wears a robe, which wins the admiration, not of men's, but angels' eyes, and shines even amid the glories of a city whose gates are made of pearls, and whose streets are paved with gold. To the half of his kingdom, the Persian promised whatever his queen might ask; and generous, right-royal as was his offer, it helps us by its very meanness, as a molehill at the foot of a mountain, as a taper's feeble, yellow flame held up against the blazing sun, to form some estimate of the boundless grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Half his kingdom | He offers nothing by halves. His promise is illimitable. All mine is thine. Confining his generosity neither to kingdoms, nor continents, nor worlds, nor heaven itself, he lays the whole universe at a poor sinner's feet. Away then with fears and cares! There is nothing we need that we shall not get, nothing we can ask that we shall not receive. It pleased the Father that in him should all fullness dwell. Transferring divine wealth, if I may so speak, to our account in the bank of heaven, and giving us an unlimited credit there, Jesus says, All things, whatsoever ye ask in prayer believing, ye shall receive. In regard to Christ's fullness, I remark—
1. That there is all fullness of mercy to pardon in him.
Dead flies cause the ointment of the apothecary to send forth a stinking savor, so, says Solomon, doth a little folly him that is in reputation for wisdom and honor. Such great mischief can little things do. One
small leak will sink the biggest ship that ever sailed the ocean; one bad link in the chain she rides by, and parting from her anchor, she is hurled on the horrid reef or driven before the fury of the tempest; and even one little wedge left carelessly on the slips arrests her progress when the signal is given, and eager crowds are waiting to cheer the launch, and the bosom of the sea is swelling to receive her into its arms. And had there the smallest doubt expressed in the Bible about the fullness of pardoning mercy, had it not been made clear as noon-day that the blood of Christ cleanseth from all sin, from sins as well of the deepest as of the lightest dye, what a stumbling-block would that have been I believe that it would have arrested the steps of thousands now happy in Christ, or now safe in heaven, as they went to throw themselves at his feet and cry, Lord, save us, we perish. But there is no such doubt. A herald of the cross, I stand here in my master's name to proclaim a universal amnesty. When the last gun is fired, and pardon is proclaimed in reconquered provinces, is it not always marked by some notable exceptions 2 When the sword of war is sheathed, the sword of justice is drawn, only to be returned to the scabbard after it is filled with blood. Men say that they need not look for mercy in the hour of retribution, who wreaked ruthless vengeance on helpless women, nor had pity on sweet tender babes. But from the pardon of redeeming mercy there are none excepted, unless those, who, by refusing to accept it, except themselves. Are you unjust 2 Christ Jesus died, the just for the unjust. Are you sinners? He came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. Are you the vilest of the vile 2 He never lifted his foot, when he was on this