Devotional: December 5th
The sufferings of this present time. - Romans 8:18.
WITH regard to Christians now, their sufferings consist principally of the ills and adversities of human life. These God permits, these he sends in the course of his providence, and these subserved the purposes of persecution in particular ages of the church. These are the briers and thorns which naturally grow out of our condition, and induce us to exclaim, “Woe is me that I sojourn in Mesech, that I dwell in the tents of Kedar!”
There are the disappointments of the way, by which our purposes are broken off, even the thoughts of our heart; there are our bodily pains, indispositions, and sufferings, and which cause us to exclaim, with Job, “I am made to possess months of vanity, and wearisome nights are appointed unto me.” There are also our social evils,-when the mother closes the eye of the child she bore and bred, and at her bosom fed, and when the husband hears the sentence, “Son of man, behold, I take away the desire of thine eyes with a stroke,” and when the man stripped and peeled is like a sparrow alone upon the house-top, who also says, “Lover and friend hast thou put far from me, and mine acquaintance into darkness.” Indeed, there are a thousand sources of suffering that open to us in this vale of tears. Nothing gives us pleasure but is capable of yielding us pain; nothing can awaken hope that cannot also produce fear. But why are these called “the sufferings of this present time”? Doubtless for these reasons.
First, Because a state of suffering is the character of this life. Hence old Jacob said, “Few and evil have been the days of the years of my pilgrimage.” Job said, “Man is born to trouble, as the sparks fly upwards.” And Solomon exclaimed, from his own experience, as well as on other grounds, “All is vanity and vexation of spirit.” It will be well for us to enter upon every condition with this expectation. It will be well for those who are indulged in the morning of life to remember the admonition of Solomon:-“Truly the light is sweet, and a pleasant thing it is for the eyes to behold the sun. But if a man live many years and rejoice in them all, yet let him remember the days of darkness; for they too shall be many. All that cometh is vanity.” And as to Christians, what other expectation are they authorized to entertain? They know they are in an enemy’s country; they know they are far from home, and that it is “through much tribulation they must enter the kingdom.”
Secondly, Because they are necessary to it: we mean morally so. This is a state of trial, of probation, and of preparation; for if we are to be weaned from earth, to have our conversation in heaven, to breathe after future blessedness, to live much in prayer, to be attached to the sanctuary, to sympathize with the afflicted, to speak a word in season to them that are weary, to glorify God in the fires, to resemble our Lord and Saviour, why, then the sufferings of this present time are indispensable.
And, Thirdly, Because they are confined to it. This is not the case, indeed, with all. For those who are unpardoned and unrenewed, these privations and trials and sufferings here will only be the beginnings of sorrow. But it is otherwise with the Christian. The Christian’s sufferings are for the present time only. This gives us a pleasing view of death. Death is the offspring of sin, yet it is the destroyer of it: as says an old writer, “God sends death to kill sin, but by killing sin it destroys itself also as well as sorrow, which is the consequence of sin.”
It is thus the curse is turned into a blessing. It is thus the enemy proves to be a friend.
To show that the Lord is upright: he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him. - Psalms 92:15.
OBSERVE the testimony here given concerning God; it is this, that the fruitfulness of Christians manifested in their fearing God-in attending upon and delighting in his ordinances, and growing in grace, and bringing forth fruit in old age, not only show that they are upright, but are declarative of and designed to “show that the Lord is upright; and that there is no unrighteousness in him.” And they do this in two ways.
First, As it evidences his faithfulness to his engagements. “All the ways of the Lord are mercy and truth;” not only mercy but “truth;” because they are in fulfilment of his promises. What is there pertaining to us, as Christians, that has not been provided for us in the covenant of grace, Is it our afflictions? Whatever else it may be, this is included; the rod was in the covenant from everlasting: “If his children forsake my law, and walk not in my judgments, if they break my statutes, and keep not my commandments, then I will visit their transgressions with a rod, and their iniquities with stripes; nevertheless my loving-kindness will I not utterly take from them, nor suffer my faithfulness to fail.” And David says, “I know that in faithfulness thou hast afflicted me.” Faithfulness regards the accomplishment of the promise, God has engaged to afflict his people. Has he not been with us in trouble? He assured us of this. Has he not sustained our strength? have not our “shoes been as iron and brass” to defend us from the thorns and briars of the wilderness? “The Lord is upright.” “He is faithful that hath promised.”
Secondly, Because it shows that they are adhering to him with purpose of heart. They have not turned back from him, and this shows that they have found him to be what they expected he would be. Had they been deceived by him, they would have given him up. “Under the law the servant that had his ear bored gave proof that he loved his master; and he would not have loved him if he had not behaved well to him. The attachment and the adherence of the servants of God proclaim his faithfulness, and show that they have not been disappointed in their expectations of him. Just like the venerable Polycarp, who, when commanded to deny his Saviour, said, “Eighty and four years he has been a good Master to me, and has not forsaken me, and shall I now forsake him?” Thus the perseverance of the Christian shows not what he is, but what God is; and says Paul, “By the grace of God I am what I am;” “not me, but the grace of God which is in me.” It shows “that the Lord is upright; he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.”
And here we may also observe the Testifier. Who can bear his testimony to this truth? “I,” says David, “he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.” Every one can say this, and will say this, who has like David made God his rock for building upon; his rock of refuge from danger; his rock of refreshment, whose streams follow him all the wilderness through. And cannot we also bear this testimony and say, “He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him?”
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