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with perfect sight passing through a nation of blind
A man with perfect sight passing through such a nation, could speak of very few things of which they could form any conception. “ Did you ever hear," would one say to another, did you ever hear of a rainbow ?-or of colours ? —or of light ?-or of stars? The man is beside himself.”
It is thus with the Christian, when speaking to the world of the things of God. The natural man cannot understand them, and treats him as one insane. Nay, it is said of Christ himself, that his kindred ran out to lay hold of him, thinking him beside himself. And of his Apostles it is said, that they were spectacles to angels and to men. 'If,' says our Lord, 'ye were of the world, the world would love its own; but, because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.' It
may be objected, that we are not to apply an expression, particularly addressed to disciples, to mankind at large. Let such objectors recollect, that one of these Apostles says, “All, that will live godly in Christ Jesus, shall suffer persecution.'
This partaking of the sufferings of Christ may be occasioned many thousand ways by mankind. If men have not their fire and faggots to bring forth, to demonstrate the malignity of their hearts; yet, they have, as the Apostle expresses it, their cruel mockings, bitter reproaches, misrepresentations, and uncharitable conjectures. Did they not say of Christ himself, that he was a mover of sedition? These are but the various expressions of the malignity and enmity of the carnal heart against Christ and his servants. 3. Christ suffered, being TEMPTED.
He had te combat, not only against the world, but against sin.
And, to the end of the world, his servants must be cautioned against their grand enemy. They must maintain a conflict to their latest breath. The Christian draws the sword, and throws away the scabbard.
He has no expectation that it will ever be sheathed again in this world; for Satan, where he cannot destroy, will disturb.
Beside open assaults, the Christian will find this enemy spreading snares suited to his disposition and constitution. The accuser of the brethen’ is a veteran in mischief: he will provide some trial in our circumstances, and throw some stumbling-block in our way:
4. Being in the School of Christ, Christ's sufferings are made to abound in a Christian, when God exercises him by STRIPPING HIM OF SENSIBLE 'COMFORT AND STRENGTH; and calling him to walk by faith and patience, without any thing external to lean uponwhen he dries up creature-springs.
I know what it is, in myself and others, for a man to be brought into such a situation, that his props, if I may so express it, are cut away-when his very friends become traitors to him, as Judas became to his master—when those, on whom he places most dependance, become strangers. He is then taught to walk in darkness, and yet to walk on: he is led through a wilderness, in which there is no way: he knows what it is to have his path walled up: and he is ready to say, I shall one day perish.'
Our Blessed Master himself poured out strong cries and tears. It must have been no small trial to make him
pour out strong cries and tears, who was from his birth a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.'
Hear too, how the Apostle speaks, in the ninth verse: “We had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead.' And he speaks of being pressed out of measure'-almost driven from hope: 'insomuch that he despaired even of life!' And this is the language of Christ's school.
Brethren, whatever God has promised to his people, he has not promised to exempt them from afflic
tion in this world. As one well remarks, it is the only blessing which God gives to his people without their asking for it: but, because he will bless by it, he sends it without their asking.
II. I am to show HOW CONSOLATIONS BY CHRIST ARE MADE TO ABOUND, EVEN IN TRIBULATION.
1. A Christian's consolations are made to abound under his afflictions, as he is instructed in RESPECT TO THE END OF HIS SUFFERINGS.
A man may bear much, when he can see the end. The Psalmist tells us, in the Lxxrud Psalm, that he was carried away by the prosperity of the wicked. My feet, he says, were almost gone : my steps had wellnigh slipped. But it pleased
God to make his consolations abound, by showing him the end. When I thought to know this, he says—when I thought to know this as a Philosopher, and to reconcile it in my own wisdom--it was too hard for me: I could not understand it, until I went into the sanctuary of God: then understood I the end. But, he adds, I am continually with thee, though chastened and tried : thou hast holden me by my right hand, as the parent does his child ; and thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory-As for me, it is a good thing for me to draw near to God. What may
not be endured, when a man has evidence of the power and strength on which he leans ? St. Paul cried carnestly under his affliction--the thorn that pierced him—the messenger of Satan. But our Lord said, “ My grace is sufficient for thee: 1 will care for thee: commit the matter to me : you want support, and
you shall receive it." · Most gladly, therefore,' says the Apostle, will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. I find, that, as my tribulations abound, my consolations
, abound also.
2. A Christian's consolations are made to abound
by Christ, as, in treading this dreary and thorny path,
EVIDENCE GLORY—not only that this is the way which leads to the end, but that he is in the way.
In the fourth chapter of this epistle, the Apostle says, 'For which cause we faint not: but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. Though the outward man will, soon sink and perish, yet God renews the inward man: ' for our light affliction which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory :— The consolation is infinitely greater than the momentary affliction--While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.'
‘Go thy way forth by the footsteps of the flock, and feed thy kids beside the shepherds' tents, was the answer given to that inquiry, “Tell me, O thou whom my soul loveth, where thou makest thy flocks to rest at noon.-Go thy way forth :-set up waymarks :'---notice what you meet with : ask if that is not the way in which all walked who are gone to heaven: ask for the way of them, that came out of great tribulation, and washed their robes in the blood of the lamb.'
And are you in this way? Then you may say, every step of it, “Why art thou cast down, O my soul? The sufferings of Christ will abound, more or less, all the way thou goest; but the consolation will abound also.
3. A Christian's consolations are made to abound in his tribulations, as HE HAS AN ASSURANCE OF PECULIAR SUPPORT IN TRYING SEASONS.
Of peculiar support, I say: for God will give strength for the day and faith for the trial. Do you think of him as a hard master ?—then you know him not. Will
servant on an ardu
ous errand, and not consider his difficulties? Will
you not grant support and countenance to your servant in his undertaking, in proportion to its difficulties ? Oh, how do we dishonour God, in thinking he is more regardless of us, than we are of one another ! “No! says our Lord,“ I am the vine : ye are the branches : ye shall derive life and vigour from me; and though the branch may be placed under a burning sun, which may seem to dry up all its nourishment, yet am the vine : it cannot touch the vine : fear not: 1 know your troubles."
Therefore St. Paul says, 'Though no man stood by me, yet the Lord was with me; and, as my afflictions abounded, my consolations also abounded.
And this is the powerful argument of the text. “We are obliged,” as if the Apostle had said, " to stand by this fact: that whenever the sufferings of Christ abound, the consolations superabound." Herein God proves his sufficiency, and Christ his faithfulness. He saw the martyr Stephen dragged before an assembly of enraged men, who gnashed upon him with their teeth : and treated his arguments, and the truths which he spake, as if they were so many falsehoods and fables. He saw him dragged out to be dashed to pieces by their stones. But, “ Behold," says Stephen, looking up, “I see the heavens opened : I see Jesus, for whom I am suffering : that suffices ! He is now looking at me, and saying, Well done, good and faithful servant : thou shalt have my light and consolation." Looking up, therefore, to his best and only friend, Lord Jesus, said he, receive my spirit : lay noi this sin to their charge, for they know not what they do! How eminently did consolation here abound beyond affliction !
I shall speak a word to OBJECTORS.
Such may be ready to say, “If Christianity has such trials, I am ready to forego all and draw back. I thought all would be quietness and ease."